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Canadian Auto Workers Strike Escalates

October 10, 1996

DETROIT (AP) _ Operations at General Motors Canada were shut down today as a weeklong strike over key job security issues spread companywide.

By Friday, the strike by the Canadian Auto Workers union is expected to lead to additional layoffs in the United States by General Motors Corp., the world’s largest automaker and the parent of GM Canada.

Wednesday night’s strikes at GM plants in Windsor, Woodstock and London, Ontario _ along with three plants already on strike _ raised the total number of strikers by 6,350 to reach 28,510.

``As long as it takes, we’ll be out here,″ said Erwin Reidl, a machine repairman at Windsor. ``When they start outsourcing at plants that are making money, what’s next?″

Contract talks brought no results, and the stumbling block remained outsourcing _ GM’s proposal to give more work to outside contractors, often nonunion plants.

GM Chairman Jack Smith, making his first public comments since the strike began, acknowledged the seriousness of the dispute. He told the Detroit Free Press that the contract CAW wants GM to accept could ``cripple″ the company.

The strike already has led to layoffs of 1,850 workers at GM plants in Ypsilanti, Mich., and Tonawanda, N.Y., that supplied the Canadian plants with parts. GM spokesman Tom Klipstine said a few hundred additional workers at a transmission plant in Ypsilanti may be sent home Friday.

The shutdown of Windsor transmission and trim plants is expected to rapidly hit many of GM’s U.S. assembly facilities.

``A lot of GM parts made in Canada go in American cars and that could cripple a lot of plants across the border,″ said Alfie Morgan, a business professor at the University of Windsor.

Among the sticking points in the dispute is the proposed sale of parts plants in Windsor and Oshawa, Ontario. The CAW is opposed to the sales, but Smith said the company is better off letting someone else run the businesses.

He told the Free Press that if the strike goes on, GM has ``a very strong balance sheet″ that includes $13 billion in cash reserves.

GM Canada spokesman Greg Gibson said the company had ``contingency plans″ to keep dealers stocked with parts and didn’t anticipate problems.

Workers couldn’t even wait until their own midnight Wednesday deadline to strike. The CAW president, Buzz Hargrove, said union members at a parts depot in Woodstock walked out in the afternoon when GM officials brought in rail cars to try to ship out extra parts.

In Windsor, workers outside a GM transmission plant said they struck at 8 p.m. Wednesday. ``Talks stalled, and there was no reason to wait,″ assembler Kruno Ozvald said.

David J. Andrea, an auto industry analyst at Roney & Co. in Detroit said the strike has not hurt GM as much as the union had anticipated.

``Because of the way that the Canadian plants have gone down _ not all at once _ has lessened the impact in the United States. That has extended production schedules here,″ Andrea said.

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