Some GM workers at the GM CAMI Assembly plant in Ontario, Canada are using food banks to provide meals for their families after lengthy idling of the facility and difficulties in obtaining the back pay they’re owed, according to other people working at the facility.
CTV News London quoted a worker at CAMI Assembly who has a co-worker “waiting for back-pay for so long that they had no money for groceries,” skipping their own lunches and using food banks to feed their children.
Most workers at the CAMI Assembly facility underwent a year-long layoff while The General retooled the plant for production of the BrightDrop Zevo 600 light commercial EV van in place of the original Chevy Equinox crossover production.
The retooling itself was complete in seven months, described as “the fastest-ever plant conversion for GM” by the automaker, but a lengthy period for a layoff from the perspective of employees. Rolling layoffs continue as GM recently idled the plant and its approximately 1,500 workers as a result of a shortage of EV batteries. The plant will start assembling its own battery pack modules next year.
While there are plenty of significant orders for the BrightDrop Zevo 600 van on the books, battery raw materials are lacking and a bottleneck resulted. Even before the current shutdown, the plants three shifts of workers were each working two weeks, then undergoing four weeks of layoff before returning to work for two more weeks, and so on.
Labor regulations add another layer of difficulty, with most workers unable to receive Employment Insurance (EI) payments from the government because all benefits were used up by the previous year-long layoff.
Many workers are also unable to easily access back pay from GM, while the automaker requires an Employment Insurance denial letter for each worker every two weeks as proof of eligibility for “top-up pay.” A local union representative said the EI administration is “swamped,” making obtaining such letters lengthy and difficult.
The news report says some CAMI workers are organizing donation programs to buy groceries and pay bills for those currently without money. One group, Camily Funds for Food, collected donations from 500 people for the relief of CAMI employees unable to afford food.
While the current production halt is expected to end on July 31st, Unifor Local 88 chairman Mike Van Boekel remarked that attempting “to raise a family and buy groceries and pay a mortgage payment when there’s no income for six weeks can be darn tough.”