Lengthy production delays caused by the global semiconductor chip shortage have workers at General Motors’ CAMI Assembly plant in Canada concerned about their short-term employment prospects.
The GM CAMI Assembly plant, which produces the Chevy Equinox crossover, went dark on February 7th and has remained offline ever since – save for a brief three-week period in June. Unifor Local 88 Plant Chair Mike Van Boekel told CTV News this week the earliest the plant will come back online at the moment is October 4th, although this restart date is dependent on semiconductor chip supply. With many of the plant’s unionized, hourly employees out of work for months on end, these workers have begun seeking other jobs in the production and service industries.
“The next 12 months is going to be pretty tough,” Van Boekel said of the situation at CAMI.
While the southern Ontario plant plays a small part in GM’s North American production strategy at the moment, it will become much more important next year once it begins production of the BrightDrop EV600 electric utility van. GM has contracted a supplier called Kuka AG to build the first EV600 examples at a facility in Michigan while it re-tools CAMI Assembly to produce the vehicle. CAMI is expected to start limited production of the EV600 in early 2022 before ramping up output later in the year.
“They are going to start producing (the EV600) in the spring in low numbers, just to get the bugs out, but we are going to get going in the third quarter next year,” Van Boekel said.
This situation has left CAMI Assembly in a difficult spot. While GM may not have work for the 1,900 union-represented workers at the moment, it should have plenty once production of the EV600 ramps up next year. GM will also want to retain the plant’s skilled workforce, although this will be difficult to do if it cannot provide them with work in the meantime.
For now, Van Boekel remains hopeful production of the Chevy Equinox will return for a brief period before GM switches to EV600 production.
“I do believe at some point in 2021 we’ll run steady until they decide ok that’s the end of it and we’ll start with the Bright Drops,” he said.
In addition to CAMI Assembly, the Chevy Equinox is also produced tje GM Ramos Arizpe Plant in Mexico, which supplies Mexico and the United States, as well as the GM San Luis Potosí Plant in Mexico, which supplies various international markets including South America.