Thursday, 24 January, 2019

Work to rule at GM plant

The General Motors car assembly plant in Oshawa Ontario.
Eduardo Lima  The Canadian Press  
THE CANADIAN PRESS The General Motors car assembly plant in Oshawa Ontario. Eduardo Lima The Canadian Press THE CANADIAN PRESS
Priscilla Morrison | 09 January, 2019, 17:12

"Union plans to escalate campaign to #SaveOshawaGM", Dias tweeted Tuesday after the meeting.

A top union president representing auto workers with General Motors Canada will hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon about the fate of the assembly plant in Oshawa. A large rally is planned in Windsor on Friday.

Unifor, the union that represents workers at the plant, has vowed to block its closure.

"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, told Reuters after a meeting he had with GM officials at the No. 1 USA automaker's Detroit headquarters.

The options suggested by the union, including extending the life of the Chevy Impala and Cadillac XTS now produced at the plant or shifting production slated for Mexico to the plant, are not economic, said David Paterson, vice president of corporate affairs at GM Canada.

"GM has not only picked a fight with Unifor but they have picked a fight with all of Canada", said Dias.

Along with Cami Automotive in Ingersoll, which makes the Chevy Equinox, GM has parts plants in St. Catharines. Going into the Tuesday meeting, he has voiced optimism a solution could be found. GM Chief Executive Mary Barra promised in early December to keep an "open mind" about another affected plant, Ohio's Lordstown Assembly.

The union is also considering its legal options, Dias said.

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GM announced in November it was shutting down its Oshawa operations by the end of 2019, as well as closing four smaller assembly plants in the U.S.

Unifor even screened a commercial during the Golden Globes awards ceremony Sunday, protesting the closing.

Hundreds of workers walked off the job at the Oshawa plant in protest on the day GM announced its plans.

The closings come as GM discontinues sedans and focuses on better selling and more profitable trucks and crossovers.

Paterson said in a phone interview that the move in the auto market away from cars means the company has to transition away from the models, while it is too expensive and will take too long to shift other production to the already under capacity Oshawa plant. The plant also finishes two older GM pickups, the Silverado and GMC Sierra, which are being updated and are made in the US and Mexico. However, Prof. Mordue said he was surprised GM offered no guarantees of extended or continued production at its plant in Ingersoll, Ont., which makes the Equinox model, a vehicle also made in Mexico. "We argued you can reverse those decisions and bring a vehicle back to Canada". He added how the Canadian governments and taxpayers also provided $11 billion in subsidies to GM at a time when it faced near bankruptcy a decade ago. "If GM wants to sell here, it must build here".

Mr. Paterson said the government bailout helped prop up the economy of Southern Ontario, ensured GM could pay up the pension plan and helped it develop a software and technology centre in the province.

GM said in a letter to Dias that it had already considered several proposals including those the union raised at the meeting.

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