GM rejects Unifor proposals to keep Oshawa plant open past 2019

The Oshawa General Motors car assembly plant is shown in Oshawa Ont. on Nov 26 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS  Eduardo Lima

While Unifor vowed it will not advocate for a boycott of GM products, the union leader believes Canadian vehicle buyers are already steering away following the Oshawa plant announcement.

"Workers on the morning shift at Oshawa Assembly Plant staged a sit down to protest General Motors callous choice to close down the plant after 100 years of operation, despite the fact that the company acknowledges it could maintain the plant without injury to its current bottom line", Unifor spokesperson Kathleen O'Keefe said in an email.

Production at the Oshawa plant began on November 7, 1953, and in the 1980s the plant employed roughly 23,000 people.

"Having completed an analysis of Unifor's proposals, GM has determined that it can not pursue them because they would not combat the declining economic and market factors that must be addressed", the company said in a letter from GM Canada president Travis Hester and labour relations vice president Gerald Johnson.

"We're looking at tens of thousands of jobs and a direct hit to the GDP", said Unifor president Jerry Dias in a statement.

After he returned from the meeting with GM, Dias told reporters in a press conference in Windsor, Ontario, that the union was looking at its legal options regarding whether the Detroit company violated the labor contract.

In November, GM announced it would close 5 plants this year, 4 in the USA and this one in Canada. "And yet Oshawa has grown and people live there and they all have jobs".

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GM has claimed its restructuring plan, including the plant closures, stands to save the company US$6 billion annually. A large rally is planned in Windsor on Friday.

Retraining, and finding new jobs for workers, "makes me feel optimistic that we're going to manage these adjustments reasonably well".

"They have the ability to keep a product in Oshawa which is an award-winning facility", he said.

Much of the Canadian economy is growing at capacity and struggling to find workers, Poloz said, despite the high-profile struggles of sectors like automotive manufacturing. They want to support Mexican workers.

"In our history, Chrysler has never approached what GM keeps doing to us time and time again", he said.

"We're going to continue to have discussions with them about solutions", Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, the union that represents workers at the plant, said after meeting with GM officials at the No. 1 USA automaker's Detroit headquarters. One of the plants is the Detroit Hamtramck Poletown plant set to close in July.

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