GM Canada responds to Unifor boycott threat

Save Oshawa GM. Jan 7, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Unifor Canada)

GM Canada has responded to the latest communication from Unifor concerning the future of its Oshawa plant.

The automaker issued a release on its official website Saturday, disputing some of the claims made by Unifor, which threatened Friday to begin a boycott of GM vehicles that are made in Mexico. The boycott does not include vehicles made by GM in Canada or the US.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias said in a conference call with reporters that the union will begin an aggressive ad campaign on both sides of the international border. Dubbed the “VIN-3” campaign, Dias is urging consumers not to accept delivery of a GM vehicle whose VIN number begins with a 3, signifying that it is produced in Mexico.

Dias admitted Friday he was initially reluctant to boycott GM because the union has members at other plants in southwestern Ontario.

“We hired a polling group,” said Dias. “They told us that 45 per cent of Canadians would absolutely support an outright boycott. Another 26 per cent said they would strongly consider boycotting GM products.”

In its response, published via its official corporate website and its Twitter account, GM Canada says the campaign is hasty and full of incorrect information, insisting that no Canadian jobs are going to Mexico.

“GM Canada only imports three models from Mexico out of 47 we sell in Canada,” the statement read. “Unifor’s proposed boycott attacks their own members in Ontario who make parts for Mexico at GM Canada and over 60 Canada-based suppliers.”

GM also pointed out that they will still have a presence in Oshawa after the assembly plant is idled at the end of 2019, complete with its Canadian headquarters. GM also builds vehicles at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, along with transmissions and engines in St. Catharines. Over 5,000 people are employed for GM Canada.

The Detroit-based automaker announced last month they were closing the Oshawa plant due to global restructuring, along with shifts in consumer tastes in North America which include the profitable pickup trucks and SUVs. Four US-based plants will also be closing. The news has sparked outrage among autoworkers on both sides of the border. Solidarity rallies have been held all across Canada, along with protests at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

GM Canada says they are fully committed to helping the Oshawa autoworkers affected by the closure to either retire, find work at other facilities, or retrain for another career, and that they will not stop until every autoworker is taken care of.

—with files from Adelle Loiselle