GM stands firm on Oshawa plant closure

Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 14, 2019 to meet with auto industry leaders. (Photo courtesy of Doug Ford via Twitter)

General Motors has told Ontario’s premier that its position on closing the Oshawa plant has not changed.

The grim news came during a meeting at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Tuesday morning. Premier Doug Ford met with GM President Mark Reuss and other GM executives but said he came away disappointed to hear the GM Oshawa plant closure will go ahead.

“During our meeting I once again expressed my commitment to the GM workers in Oshawa and discussed opportunities to support them,” the premier said in a statement released to the media after the meeting. “Following a meeting with Unifor, I promised to press General Motors executives to extend operations at the Oshawa plant in order to give the affected workers more time to deal with the impacts of the closure. Despite raising this on repeated instances, I was disappointed to hear that General Motors’ position has not changed.”

“I will never stop fighting for the good people of Oshawa. Our government is going to continue doing everything we can to help with job-training and employment supports in the Durham Region,” Ford added. “We will not rest until Ontario is open for business, good-paying jobs chased away by the previous Wynne Liberal government return to Ontario, and the people of Oshawa are able to land on their feet.”

Ford said he was glad to hear GM reiterate its commitment to making vehicles in Ingersoll and St. Catharines, as well as expanding state-of-the-art automotive engineering in Markham, Oshawa, and across Ontario. The Oshawa GM plant is set to close at the end of the year, putting 2,500 people out of work.

Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, said he met with GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra during the auto show on Monday and urged her to reconsider the decision to close the Oshawa plant but he was also told GM’s position has not changed.

Unifor Canada held a news conference at the Detroit auto show early Tuesday afternoon to say the fight is not over to reverse GM’s decision to close the Oshawa plant. President Jerry Dias said he is not accepting that GM is not changing its position and calls the decision “horrendous.” He said there is no upside for anybody, including GM, and wants the automaker to honour its collective bargaining agreement to keep Canadian assembly plants open until at least September 2020 to give the union a chance to come up with a solution.

Dias said there is a new strategy and campaign to get GM’s attention. He said several daily events have started rolling out, including a Tuesday morning walkout at Inteva, a GM parts supplier in Oshawa that is affecting production at the Oshawa plant.

“This will be the worst auto show that General Motors will ever face in the history of the auto shows here in Detroit,” said Dias.

But he admits the ship might have sailed.

“It’s difficult to put the genie back in the bottle,” said Dias.

Dias had not spoken with Premier Ford yet on Tuesday, but said he would call him later in the day.