TORONTO - Processors are feeling the pain from a lengthy strike at General Motors of Canada Ltd. plants. The Canadian Auto Workers Union has made good on its promise to dig in its heels over the issue of outsourcing to nonunion suppliers. Lear Corp. laid off about 1,000 employees at its Ajax and Whitby, Ontario, plants shortly after the strike against GM Canada began Oct. 2. The two facilities shipped seating systems to GM Canada's nearby Oshawa car and truck plants on a just-in-time basis. Lear spokeswoman Leslie Touma said she did not know if other Lear facilities eventually would be affected by a long strike. Ajax and Whitby were essentially shut down late last week.
Other processors have been able to avoid Lear's drastic shutdown in Canada since most have a broader product mix. However, GM plants in the United States have begun curtailing operations due to lack of parts sourced from Canada. This threatens to create a domino effect that would cause deeper and wider processor pain.
Manchester Plastics of Gananoque, Ontario, cut 62 jobs early this month when GM Canada stopped ordering plastic interior trim. Mark Hurst, human resources manager for the Ganan-oque operation, said more layoffs are possible. He declined to estimate how many more workers will be affected, since it will depend on how GM's U.S. operations are affected. He said earlier estimates of 209 more layoffs scheduled for Oct. 17 were probably too high. Manchester injection molds door panels, engine covers and other large parts for GM. It employs about 400 in Gananoque, about 15 percent of the community's work force.
Tarxien Corp. has only laid off 20 of its 500 workers, Michael Gondosch, vice president of finance, said in an interview from the firm's Ajax head office.
``[Layoff numbers] might grow, depending on how intertwined GM plants are in Canada and the United States,'' he predicted.
The injection molder and painter does nearly all of its business with GM, mainly supplying U.S. plants. Tarxien, meanwhile, is the subject of a takeover offer by Ventra Group Inc. of Cambridge, Ontario.
Pebra Inc. of Peterborough is also in negotiations to be bought, but officials declined to say what impact the strike might have on the deal agreed to by JPE Inc. Pebra shipped about 20 percent of its output to Oshawa.
CAW first struck the Oshawa plants and extended the action to all other GM Canada plants, including assembly operations in Ste. Therese, Quebec, sending a total of 26,000 workers home and onto picket lines. As of Oct. 16, more than 10,000 GM U.S. and Mexico workers were laid off as some parts supplies dried up.
CAW president Buzz Hargrove said at a Toronto news conference GM's recently reported third-quarter profit of US$1.27 billion ``will only strengthen the resolve of our membership.'' Analysts expect that a continuing strike would significantly cut into GM's fourth-quarter profit. GM Chairman Jack Smith met with Hargrove and other CAW officials Oct. 16 to jump-start negotiations.