The GM plant in Oshawa won’t be fully shuttered until the end of 2019 but officials with the automaker say that some employees will be laid off as early as this summer as production begins to “wind down.”

GM Canada’s Vice President of Corporate and Environmental Affairs Dave Patterson made the comment to CTV News Toronto on Tuesday, one day after it was announced that the plant is being closed as part of a global reorganization that will see the company switch its focus to electric and autonomous vehicles.

The closure of the plant is expected to result in the loss of more than 2,500 jobs in Oshawa.

Thousands of other jobs will also be eliminated at four other plants in the U.S. that are slated for closure.

“The Impala and Cadillac XTS will no longer be produced or sold after the end of 2019 so we will be left at the end of that period without a product to work on so we have sadly had to provide notice to our employees of the changes,” Patterson said. “Nothing will change until the summer of next year and then we will start to see some of the employment and some of the production wind down and then we will see the remainder of that end at the end of 2019.”

Patterson said that the Oshawa plant has the capacity to run six shifts day but for the last several years had only been running three shifts.

He said that GM just “can’t have plants that are not operating at full capacity,” making the closure of the facility necessary.

“This is hard for all of us, including for salaried workers. I don’t know if I will be here next week,” he said. “This is a change that is personal and it is family here for us. But I think what is really positive is that the workers are back at the plant today and they are doing what Canadians do. They are showing that we can do this better than anybody in the world and we will perform here and show people that we can do this well.”

Tory says he wants to find a ‘solution’ for affected workers

Oshawa’s GM plant has been in operation since 1953 and at one point employed about 40,000 workers.

Its closure is expected to have an impact on both the GTA and Ontario as a whole.

Speaking with reporters at an unrelated event on Tuesday morning, Mayor John Tory said that the closure will absolutely have an impact on Toronto. He said that decision-makers in the city and across the region need to “apply every ounce of energy” they can to “find an innovative way to use and employ” the affected workers.

“It does affect us. This notion that somehow because we are an hour away we are not affected is absolutely not true. A rising tide lifts all boats and similarly when there is a blow struck on the economy of Ontario, it hurts ours,” he said. “I have certainly expressed my willingness to be a part of looking for a solution that takes those smart people and the assets that we have and tries to find a way in which they can contribute. Undoubtedly there is a way they can contribute to the future economy and that may well be to do with cars and it may not. The bottom line is we have to explore what those options are, both for those people and for our own well-being.”

Tory said that the workers who will be affected by the closing of the Oshawa plants as “very skilled” people, who are among “the best at what they do in the world.”

He said that generally the challenge cities and governments face at times like this is “finding ways in which you can take advantage of change,” rather than resisting change.

“The challenge is finding ways in which you can take advantage of change and make sure that you help people through a transformation,” he said. “That is something I see as part of my responsibility.”

Oshawa calls on GM to find ‘new opportunities’ for workers

In a statement released earlier on Tuesday morning, the City of Oshawa called on GM to work with all three levels of government “to identify new opportunities” for the regions’ “highly trained automotive workforce.”

“For more than 100 years, Oshawa’s autoworkers have been integral to the social and economic vitality of Oshawa, Durham Region, Ontario and Canada. The local GM workforce has consistently demonstrated its flexibility and ability to embrace innovation to continually transform the automotive sector for the benefit of the North American economy,” the statement says. “With its rich automotive history, demonstrated technological innovation and investments, as well as a highly skilled and trained workforce, Oshawa is the ideal location and well-positioned to drive GM’s new focus on electric and autonomous vehicle programs.”

Unifor President Jerry Dias has vowed to fight the closure of the Oshawa plant “tooth and nail” and has indicated that GM is in for “one hell of a fight.”

On Tuesday he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa to discuss the closure.

A statement provided to CP24 by Trudeau’s office said that the Prime Minister had a “constructive meeting” with Dias and “made it clear” that his government will “fight for our workers and are looking at all options to support them.”

Premier Doug Ford, however, has suggested that it will likely be impossible to convince GM to change its plans at this time. On Monday, he told reporters at Queen’s Park that he had a conversation with the head of GM Canada and asked what his government could do but was told that “the ship has already left the dock.”

The statement released by the City of Oshawa on Tuesday morning touts the “cutting edge technological investments” that have been made to support the auto industry, including the Automotive Centre of Excellence at The University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

The statement also pointed out that Oshawa’s automotive workforce has “a proven record of accomplishment for setting high quality standards and winning international productivity awards.”

“By further developing alternative opportunities here in Oshawa, our mutually beneficial relationship can continue long into the future,” the statement says. “The city is committed to building upon our strong partnerships with GM, the federal and provincial governments and our post-secondary institutions and discussing future opportunities and support for our local GM employees and their families.”