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Cami strike: Autoworkers union makes offer to GM to potentially solve labour stoppage

By Norman De Bono, The London Free Press

Striking Cami workers show the flag on the picket line outside the General Motors assembly plant in Ingersoll Thursday. (HEATHER RIVERS/Postmedia News)

Striking Cami workers show the flag on the picket line outside the General Motors assembly plant in Ingersoll Thursday. (HEATHER RIVERS/Postmedia News)

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Striking workers at the Cami Assembly plant reached out with a new offer to GM Canada Thursday morning.

In a move aimed at kick­-starting stalled talks between the two sides, the offer is movement by the union on monetary issues, said Mike Van Boekel, chairperson of Unifor Local 88.

“We have made a proposal to the company and now we are waiting to hear back,” said Van Boekel.

“We think this is a proposal that can get us moving really quickly.”

But the union leader reiterated there will be no settlement unless Unifor gets a letter giving the plant preferred status in assembling the Chevrolet Equinox crossover vehicle, he added.

“It hinges on the letter,” he added. “We think it is fair.”

Preferred status means GM can assemble the vehicle elsewhere, as long as it keep more production in Ingersoll. For example, two shifts can make the crossover in Mexico as long as three shifts do the work in ­Ingersoll.

“We are just trying to get talks kick-started and get them talking again. We know the impact is growing,” he said of suppliers’ plants shutting down.

At Cami, 2,800 production workers walked out at 11 p.m. Sunday, with job security and monetary issues as the key stumbling blocks.

In July, Cami lost the GMC Terrain crossover to a plant in Mexico, resulting in more than 400 layoffs. That layoff pushed the union to demand greater job security language in its contract.

Meanwhile, on picket lines Thursday surrounding the plant’s many gates, scorching temperatures didn’t wilt the enthusiasm of striking Cami workers on the strike’s fourth day.

Driving past the plant multiple cars and transport trucks laid on their horns to show support to the hundreds of pickets at the plant’s south entrance.

“The mood is very positive,” said Dan Borthwick, president of Local 88. “Members of the community have been very supportive. A lot of other places that have been negatively affected have thrown their support in our direction for job security.”

Borthwick, standing before a ­giant maple leaf flag constructed by workers and emblazoned with the words “Canadian made,” said GM has said nothing since they ­offered them “an olive branch.”

“We haven’t heard back, but our stance hasn’t changed,” he said.

“What we’re fighting for is job security and a lead producer letter that secures our jobs and jobs in the community and suppliers.”

They also seek to negotiate economic issues, such as wages and pensions, and shop floor contract language.

More than 3,000 workers at parts plants in Southwestern Ontario are — or soon will be — off the job as demand for parts has dried up due to the strike.

Cami also employs more than 300 salaried workers.