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GM walkout begins to pinch suppliers and Canada plants

GM assembly workers and supporters picketing outside the General Motors Bowling Green plant during the UAW national strike in Bowling Green, Kentucky.


THE strike that has shut down General Motors (GM) plants in the United States since Monday is starting to ripple through the carmaker's supply chain, causing layoffs and production stoppages by parts makers and components manufacturers across the Midwest.

"My whole plant is shut off," said Robert Jacobson, chairman of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 652 in Lansing, Michigan. His local represents 228 workers at Android Industries, which makes instrument panels for GM.

Other Android plants that supply GM factories in Bowling Green, Kentucky; Flint, Michigan; and Arlington, Texas, have also been affected, Mr Jacobson said. "They're all down," he said. "My members are on two shifts and they're all laid off." Android did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.

The UAW and GM are at odds over pay for temporary and recently hired workers, health care costs, the carmaker's intention to shut down four plants in the US, and decisions that have shifted a larger portion of its production to Mexico in recent years.

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In a letter to union members on Thursday evening, Terry Dittes, a UAW vice-president, said the two sides were prepared to continue bargaining, through the weekend and beyond, in the absence of a tentative agreement.

"I can report to you that as of today, some progress has been made, but there are still many of our membership's issues that remain unresolved," Mr Dittes said.

As the discussions continue, the walkout is beginning to have an impact on GM's Canadian operations. The company has stopped production at its plant in Oshawa, Ontario, idling about 2,000 members of the Canadian union, Unifor. Elsewhere in the province, GM is evaluating whether to idle an engine plant in St Catherine's, which employs 700 people, and at a plant in Ingersoll that makes sport utility vehicles, a GM spokesman said.

In Michigan, Nexteer, a supplier of gears and other components, has warned workers that it may halt production soon as a result of the strike. "Without an imminent resolution, Nexteer faces the difficult conclusion that we must temporarily reduce our work force in the coming days because of the disruption in GM production," the company said in a statement released to UAW Local 699, which represents 3,000 workers at the company. The company did not respond to phone calls and e-mail for further comment.

Bridgewater Interiors, another vendor, has laid off workers at factories that supply GM's Lansing Delta Township and Detroit-Hamtramck plants, according to a message on its employee hotline. The message provided instructions for applying for unemployment benefits. A spokeswoman for Adient, one of Bridgewater's owners, confirmed that employees producing parts for GM had been told not to report to work. "We are monitoring the strike and will advise the team on a shift-by-shift basis," she said in an e-mail. Some employees at Bridgewater's Detroit factory produce parts for other carmakers and continue to report to work.

The strike is UAW's first against GM since 2007, and affects 49,000 workers in seven states.

So far the strike hasn't caused shortages of vehicles for dealers or consumers. GM started September with enough cars and light trucks on dealer lots to last 77 days at the current sales rate, according to Cox Automotive.

"No impact yet," said Pete Delongchamps, senior vice-president for manufacturer relations at Group 1 Automotive, a large chain of new-car franchises. "We'll see what happens if it lasts a few weeks, but right now we have plenty of cars and plenty of parts." NYTIMES

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