Unifor states case with GM over planned Oshawa plant closure

Unifor national president Jerry Dias discusses the talks with GM with the media, accompanied by Colin James, president of Unifor Local 222, left, and Greg Moffatt, GM Oshawa plant chair, at the Unifor Local 444/200 hall in Windsor on December 20, 2018. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

The union representing workers affected by the planned closing of the General Motors Oshawa plant took their case to the top Thursday.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias led a delegation to GM’s headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, hoping to persuade the automaker to reconsider closing their Oshawa plant, along with four others in the U.S. Dias met with a senior management team, then stopped at Unifor Local 444/200 hall in Windsor to provide remarks to media.

Dias, accompanied by Greg Moffatt, Unifor’s plant chairman at the Oshawa plant, and Colin James, president of Unifor Local 222, the local representing Oshawa workers, said they want to hold GM up to their end of the bargain, and remember the time less than a decade ago when GM’s Canadian workers helped out the near-bankrupt carmaker. Dias said GM’s contention that the plant closures are needed for restructuring does not make sense.

“There’s one thing about restructuring when you are in a market decline,” said Dias. “But there’s something else about announcing the closure of five plants… at a time of peak markets.”

Dias said the North American auto market, despite a recent dip in sales, remains very strong, with a total of 300,000 vehicles sold.

With the Oshawa plant slated to be idled by the end of 2019, Dias said the Unifor team presented a few options to GM. These include extending the production of trucks that are currently being built in Oshawa and are selling and extending the production of two car models at that plant.

Dias said the two sides met for over an hour and a half, and as expected, there was a lot of passionate debate on both sides.

“It was emotional as Greg and Colin talked about the challenges in the workplace, and the challenges in the community,” said Dias. “We talked about the impact of Oshawa, and the fact that General Motors is a part of the DNA of the community.”

Dias said GM promised to review the options they were presented with and present a formal response to Unifor by January 7, 2019.

Meanwhile, GM Canada issued a statement via Twitter that they hoped would “set the record straight” concerning the automaker’s plans for Oshawa. In the statement, accessible via the link below, GM said they remain committed to Oshawa by keeping their Canadian headquarters there, as well as keeping a presence at the Oshawa Technical Centre. GM also said they have 5,000 employees that will remain in Canada once the idling is complete and that they have spent millions of dollars helping the affected Oshawa workers access transition services.