Nearly 700 workers temporarily laid off at St. Catharines GM plant

Union officials say nearly 700 workers at the General Motors propulsion plant in St. Catharines were handed temporary layoff notices Friday.

Tim McKinnon, unit chairperson for Unifor Local 199, said the majority of the plant’s workers will be off the job as of Monday.

About 450 workers will continue working on the transmission line, but their future is uncertain, too.

“At the end of next week, if nothing changes with the UAW, it will probably put the entire plant out.”

The St. Catharines workers join thousands of others in Ontario’s auto industry who have been temporarily laid off after United Auto Workers members at GM’s U.S. operations walked off the job for the first time in more than a decade Monday. They walked out over issues that include wages, health care and job security.

GM has also halted production at its Oshawa Assembly Plant, leaving about 2,000 hourly employees off the job and creating a ripple effect among the suppliers who depend on it.

In an email to CBC News, a GM spokesperson confirmed the company had seen a “disruption” at its assembly plant in Oshawa due to the UAW strike, but that stamping operations in Oshawa and operations in Ingersoll and St. Catharines continued Friday.

“We plan to resume these operations as quickly as possible upon resolution of the UAW strike,” wrote Jacqueline Thomson.

McKinnon said the problem for workers in St. Catharines is that the V8 and V6 engines they produce at the plant ship to the U.S.

“We don’t have anywhere to ship” during the strike, he explained.

The union representative said laid off workers will be able to access unemployment insurance — about 50 per cent of their wage.

Those who have been employed at the plant for six years or more qualify for supplementary pay that’s about 65 per cent of their wage.

McKinnon added so far the situation has been going better than he anticipated.

“People have resigned themselves to the fact this is what’s going on. They’re still pretty supportive of the UAW,” he said, but noted that depends how long the strike drags on.

“The only frustrating part is we’re not in control of this, so you have no idea when it’s going to end.”

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