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GM rejects Unifor's proposals to keep Oshawa plant open past 2019

Unifor President, Jerry Dias, helps launch the Unifor #SaveOshawaGM campaign by unveiling its Tree of Hope in Memorial Park in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio
Unifor President, Jerry Dias, helps launch the Unifor #SaveOshawaGM campaign by unveiling its Tree of Hope in Memorial Park in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

General Motors has rejected several proposals made by Unifor to keep the Oshawa Assembly Plant open past the end of the year.

GM executives met with Jerry Dias, president of the union representing about 2,500 Oshawa auto workers on Tuesday, to discuss the proposals brought forward by Unifor in December that would keep the Oshawa facility open past 2019.

The automaker said in a letter released shortly after Tuesday’s meeting that the options proposed by Unifor “would involve substantial incremental costs and a further deterioration of GM’s competitive position.”

“Having completed an analysis of Unifor’s proposals, GM has determined that it cannot pursue them because they would not combat the declining economic and market factors that must be addressed,” the company said in a letter from GM Canada president Travis Hester and labour relations vice president Gerald Johnson.

Speaking in Windsor, Ont. on Tuesday afternoon, Dias said he was “deeply disappointed” by GM’s decision to close the Oshawa facility, calling it an example of “corporate greed.”

“What is equally disappointing is there was a clear acknowledgement that a solution could be found,” Dias said, adding that GM recognized that it could continue operating its Oshawa facility without hurting the company’s bottom line.

“Though there was an understanding of the importance of the (Canadian) market and the incredible contribution of our members in Oshawa, they weren’t reaching for the solution which is at hand.”

GM stunned the North American auto industry in late November when it announced a major restructuring plan that will see up to 14,000 workers in North America lose their jobs, nearly 3,000 of which are in the Oshawa Assembly Plant. GM will “unallocate” production at the Oshawa factory and four others, meaning production will halt by the end of this year unless new vehicle programs are assigned to those plans.

GM also said in the letter to Unifor that it hopes to work closely with the union “to seek the best possible transition” for the plant and its workers.

“We know these decisions are challenging for all of us, but GM remains committed to working jointly with Unifor to facilitate and support the transition of the Oshawa Assembly workforce,” the company said.

Since GM’s announcement, Unifor has launched an extensive public relations campaign, demanding GM save the Oshawa plant. Dias said Tuesday that the campaign will continue and will be “significant.”

“We are not backing down… we’re not going anywhere,” he said.

“The reality is General Motors is going to have to find a solution to keep our Oshawa Plant going. That’s the only acceptable solution as we stand here today.”

GM’s restructuring plan, which will save the company $6 billion annually, was in part a response to changing consumer demand, which has shifted towards sports utility vehicles and trucks. But it is also part of a broader strategy launched by chief executive Mary Barra that will see the company focus more on its electric and autonomous vehicle programs.

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