Workers at GM Oshawa fear company planning 'exit strategy' to close plant
Chris Herhalt, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, June 21, 2016 12:48PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 21, 2016 4:35PM EDT
Workers at a large General Motors assembly plant in Oshawa say they fear that without new production announcements from the company, they could be left with few vehicles to build by next summer.
Representatitives from Unifor Local 222 say they suspect production for two of the four models they currently build will be moved to other plants in Canada, the United States, or even China, by summer 2017.
Unifor’s master bargaining committee chairperson for GM, Greg Moffatt said that the Buick Regal sedan and the Chevrolet Equinox SUV will be “built-out” or reach the end of their production cycle before a redesign by next summer.
“The next-generation Buick (Regal) will be made in China,” Moffatt told reporters at a news conference in Oshawa Tuesday.
Union leaders said the fact that no new vehicle announcements have been made by GM amounts to an “exit strategy” by GM to eventually shutter the factory.
He said the Equinox, which is currently built in two locations in Canada, may be moved completely to the CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll near London, Ont. when it is redesigned.
That leaves the plant to build the Chevrolet Impala, which is also built in Detroit, and the Cadillac XTS.
Moffatt said that the Cadillac, a full-size luxury sedan, is sold in such small volumes there wouldn’t be enough work “for one shift” of Oshawa workers if it was the only car left for them to build.
The plant lost production of the Chevrolet Camaro coupe and convertibles to a plant in Michigan in Nov. 2015, costing 1,000 workers their jobs.
“We don’t want GM to turn Oshawa into another Flint, Michigan,” Unifor 222 President Colin James said, referring to the long-decline of the city where GM was founded in 1908.
The workers are calling on the federal and provincial governments to pressure GM to make a firm commitment on the assembly plant’s future and assign new vehicles for it to build.
GM Canada President Steve Carlislie said in a news release Tuesday that he and the firm have “immense respect for our union partners at Unifor” and that “GM remains committed to doing strong business in Canada – in terms of sales, assembly and now in new advanced engineering work.”
“All we want as workers is a future,” Moffatt said. “I believe that Steve Carlisle and General Motors need to come to the table and answer the question ‘is there a future in the City of Oshawa’.”
Approximately 2,600 workers build vehicles at the plant.
Moffatt said that the GM Oshawa plant is one of the top three plants in North America for the company in terms of productivity, despite having vehicles taken away from it in recent years.
“As much as some would like to simplify the task there is no one factor that goes into winning auto assembly investments,” Carlisle said. “Each investment is founded upon a complex business case that considers people, plants, policy, partners and competitive economics.”
On June 10, Carlisle, flanked by Premier Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, announced the creation of 700 new engineering jobs in nearby Markham and elsewhere with the aim of developing self-driving cars.