Union proposals to save Oshawa plant too expensive, GM says

Unifor President Jerry Dias addresses the public during a press conference at the Unifor Local 444 office in Windsor, January 8, 2018. (Photo by Allanah Wills)

Unifor is “deeply disappointed” that General Motors is refusing to change its decision about closing the GM Oshawa assembly plant.

Unifor President Jerry Dias met with top GM officials in Detroit on Tuesday afternoon where they broke the bad news to him. Dias said GM acknowledged that it could change the decision, but won’t.

GM said there will be no further allocation of products for Oshawa and is holding firm in its decision. GM added all Unifor’s proposals would involve substantial incremental costs and a further deterioration of GM’s competitive position.

Dias called GM’s decision a conscious one that came down to greed.

“It’s a question of choice and General Motors has made the choice that they would rather pay their employees $2 an hour in Mexico than pay their Canadian employees a decent wage. It’s a simple question of choice,” said Dias.

The union now plans to escalate its advertising campaign as part of its continued attempts to save the Oshawa plant.

Dias said during Tuesday’s meeting, GM acknowledged the importance of the Canadian market and acknowledged how furious Canadians are with their decision.

“I’m convinced that General Motors didn’t expect the backlash that they are facing from Canadians. But, faced with all of the facts, how things have unfolded over the last six weeks since the announcement, in my opinion, they haven’t reached far enough or deep enough to find a solution,” Dias said.

The union previously presented proposals to the automaker during a high ranking meeting on December 20. Dias said the Unifor team presented a few options to GM, including extending the production of trucks that are currently being built in Oshawa and are selling well, along with extending the production of two car models at that plant.

Unifor added that Canadians bailed out GM with nearly $11 billion when it was on the verge of bankruptcy a decade ago, and emphasized that if it wants to sell in Canada, it needs to build in Canada.

Colin James, president of Local 222 Oshawa, said he was totally “devastated and disgusted” with GM’s decision.

“They had the opportunity to make the right decision and change the choices that they made. They chose to stick with their decision in the name of corporate greed” James said.

The union is hosting a major solidarity rally on Friday at 11 a.m. at Dieppe Gardens in Windsor.

-With files from Paul Pedro