Economy

Workers at GM’s Canada plant hold work stoppage over closure

Workers at GM’s Canada plant hold work stoppage over closure

A Unifor commissioned study says in addition to the nearly 3,000 jobs that would be lost at GM, job losses at suppliers and in other areas would reach 14,000 over time in Ontario, and a further 10,000 elsewhere in Canada.

GM reviewed the proposals and met with Unifor President Jerry Dias on Tuesday where they told him they weren't going to change their mind and extend operations in Oshawa.

Unifor said the protest Wednesday morning lasted close to two hours before it ended and followed about a five-hour sit-down at the plant the evening before.

Dias held a press conference after the meeting in Detroit and although things looked bleak, he remained optimistic.

"What is equally disappointing is there was a clear acknowledgement that a solution could be found", Dias said, adding that GM recognized that it could continue operating its Oshawa facility without hurting the company's bottom line. "And yet Oshawa has grown and people live there and they all have jobs. But at least he's fighting", said Dias.

"The reality is General Motors will only understand if Canadians push them in the decisions they are making", Dias said.

In the statement to Unifor, the company proposed it would review its timing of when certain outputs will wrap up in Oshawa this year, and discuss transition plans for workers who may elect to retire or pursue new careers.

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While Unifor vowed it will not advocate for a boycott of GM products, the union leader believes Canadian auto buyers are already steering away following the Oshawa plant announcement. GM says it has identified job opportunities and is willing to pay for retraining.

A union spokesperson said workers are returning back on the production line. A large rally is planned in Windsor on Friday.

Colin James, president of Unifor Local 222 in Oshawa, speaks to the media with Unifor national leader Jerry Dias on Tuesday at the Unifor Local 444/200 hall following their meeting with General Motors executives in Detroit.

A high level meeting with GM officials this week came to naught as GM restated its position to close the plant.

While the study does concede that there could be a slight uptick in employment across Canada at first as laid off workers move to other parts of the country it estimates that 10,000 jobs will eventually be lost outside Ontario due to a weaker economy.

"We know these decisions are challenging for all of us, but GM remains committed to working jointly with Unifor to facilitate and support the transition of the Oshawa Assembly workforce", the company said.