TORONTO -- The Canadian Auto Workers union continued its strike against General Motors Corp. yesterday with little progress in negotiations and none scheduled for the weekend, making additional plant shutdowns likely by tomorrow.
Efforts to reach a new labor contract broke down Wednesday, and 15,000 union members started picketing three GM plants in Oshawa, Ontario, and one in St. Therese, Quebec. Standing around fires in 48-degree weather, workers held signs condemning GM's plans to shift more work to outside suppliers, a key issue in the negotiations.
General Motors asserts it must use low-cost, independent suppliers because it is the most inefficient U.S. automaker and must be more competitive. The company is risking an estimated $25 million in profit in the first week of the strike alone to underscore its resolve on the matter, analysts said.
GM "is putting long-term interests before short-term earnings considerations, which is probably the right thing to do. But it could cost plenty, so the pressure to settle will be great," David Bradley, analyst with J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., said in a report.
Bradley estimated that GM's profit would be reduced by $90 million in the second week of the strike and by $250 million a week if all Canadian operations and the U.S. operations dependent on them are forced to shut down.
The Canada walkout is complicating GM negotiations with the United Auto Workers in the United States, where the outsourcing issue also is pivotal. UAW President Stephen Yokich was at GM's headquarters in Detroit yesterday. People close to him say an agreement is near, but that he is waiting for the Canadian workers to settle.
GM rivals Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp. already have agreed to contracts limiting job cuts from outsourcing.
GM's stock fell 50 cents to $49 yesterday.
The strike has frozen production of Chevrolet Lumina and Camaro, Buick Regal and Pontiac Firebird cars, which are made in Canada, and reduced output of the company's full-size pickups.
The strike also is affecting some U.S. operations. GM's assembly plant in Lansing, Mich., has canceled an overtime shift today to conserve parts. The shift would have built 1,100 Pontiac Grand Ams and other cars.
Most consumers won't see shortages at their dealerships for several weeks, except in the case of Chevrolet and GMC pickups.
Absent an agreement by midnight tomorrow, workers at two St. Catharines, Ontario, plants will walk off assembly lines where they build engines and axles for GM's popular Tahoe and Suburban sport utility vehicles.
The Canadian Auto Workers and GM negotiators met yesterday and a GM spokesman said they were having "good, constructive dialogue."
But union negotiators saw it differently and weren't optimistic. "I think it will be another donkey dance," said CAW President Buzz Hargrove.
Pub Date: 10/05/96