GM to close Oshawa plant, lay off up to 2,000: Union
The union representing auto workers at the plant said roughly 2,000 jobs will be lost due to the closure, “As you can imagine it’s devastating,” said president of CAW local 222 Chris Buckley. “We have thousands of people that have been informed today that they are not going to have a job in one year’s time at a time when we have lost over 700,000 good paying jobs in this country.”
On the same day, General Motors Co. – the Canadian company’s parent – announced its highest U.S. sales in almost three years for the month of May at an increase of 11% year-over-year.
“GM’s sales in May were the highest in almost three years and we are poised to keep delivering good news for the U.S. economy with one of the most aggressive new product offenses in our history,” said Don Johnson, vice-president, U.S. sales operations, in a statement.
The auto union in Oshawa called the plant closure at a time when the company is finally rebounding from the auto crisis “offensive.”“It’s offensive. It’s down-right offensive. We helped save General Motors during the auto crisis. Our members had to make significant sacrifices in order to save this company and in turn save our retirees pension and the jobs we have,” Mr, Buckley said. “So at a time when the industry is starting to rebuild, at a time when GM for the first time in a long time is able to report profits, they should be reinvesting in their Canadian operations, not making them smaller.”
GM will take away its third factory shift at the Oshawa plant by the end of this year, followed by a removal of the second factory shift early next year and then total closure in June, the company said in a statement.
In 2005, GM had planned to shut down the line in 2008, but the company said demand for the Impala allowed operations to continue. In December 2011, it announced a $68-million investment into its Oshawa flex line plant to build the next generation of Impalas, which created 350 jobs.
Mr. Buckley said the investment was misleading, since the union had already bargained with GM to increase productions at Oshawa plants after GM shut down its truck plant in Oshawa in 2008. “When we bargained the truck plant closure agreement, we demanded that they give us replacement vehicles in the City of Oshawa,” Mr. Buckley said.
The new Impalas will be moved to the flex line, which currently employs 2,000 people and makes the Chevy Camaro, Buick Regal and soon, the Cadillac XTS.
The Impala will also be built at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in Michigan.
The union said the 2,000 imminent jobs lost is just the beginning, as the factory closure has a ripple effect. “When you look at the spin-off employment created as a result of auto assembly, the ratio is 1:9, so at the end of the day when the dust settles, potentially 18,000 people are going to lose their jobs as a result of GM’s decision,” ” Mr. Buckley said.
The job loss will hurt the local economy which is currently experiencing strong growth, according to the chair of the city’s Economic Development Committee John Aker. “It’s very important to the city. The city actually is in a very strong growth situation, an extremely strong growth situation,” Mr. Aker said
With more then 4,000 people working at General Motors, Mr. Aker said the car company is the largest single employer in the city with a population of 150,000.
“There will be a loss of, I believe, just over 2,000 jobs so that is extremely disappointing for the employees and extremely disappointing for the City of Oshawa,” Mr. Aker said.
Mr. Aker said the City of Oshawa is hoping GM and the union can come to an agreement to keep the plant in use and would like assistance from the provincial and federal governments if necessary.
“There may be an opportunity in negotiations this autumn between the CAW and General Motors, and perhaps with some input from the provincial government and perhaps the federal government, a new product can be awarded to the consolidated line,” said Mr. Aker.
But the union does not have any hope for continued operations at the plant. “General Motors has made it absolutely crystal clear that there will be no product put in that plant,” Mr. Buckley said.
GM is scaling back its overall operations in Canada as part of a North American restructuring begun two years ago under bankruptcy court protection.
That streamlining led to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs at the company’s Canadian and U.S. operations and the shutdown of several plants.
In 2008, GM Canada closed a truck plant in Oshawa and a transmission factory in Windsor, Ont.
GM Canada currently employs more than 9,000 people across the country. In its heyday, the automaker had more than twice that total and major operations in Oshawa, St. Catharines, Ont. and Windsor.
With files from the Canadian Press