General Motors has stepped back from its hard line on the Oshawa assembly plant, just east of Toronto. The plant, along with others in the US, had been scheduled to cease operations by the end of the year. Now,the auto maker and the union have come together to save some of those jobs.
The announcement came with a handshake, one that no one expected, between the president of GM Canada, Travis Hester, and the president of Unifor, the auto workers union, Jerry Dias.
While the auto maker’s vision is still to end vehicle production at the plant, a plan has been put together which will save some jobs.
“GM will make new investments in excess of $170 million that will transition operations at the plant from a vehicle assembly operation to one focussed on stamping, related sub-assembly and other miscellaneous activities for GM and other auto industry customers," Hester announced.
"This new business will retain 300 Oshawa jobs, with the intent to grow and generate significatnt additional jobs in the coming years."
In addition Hester said part of the Oshawa property, about 55 acres, will be converted into a track for autonomous and advanced vehicles testing.
He added that severance packages will be enhanced for some outgoing employees, and GM will set up a job centre to help others find work.
For his part, UNIFOR president Jerry Dias, said he’s not happy that 2,300 jobs will still be lost. But on the positive side, there’s now hope for the future because two key things came out of the transition announcement.
“Number one we’ve maintained the integrity of the plant, which means we’re going to keep the paint shop, we’re going to keep the ability to build future vehicles. Number two the investment is going to lead to a first ever GM initiative, which is their aftermarket project for ten years you have to build parts, corner panels, doors, hoods, trunks lift gates," Dias said.
"We’re going to build that stuff now in Oshawa, so even if the announcement of jobs today seemed miniscule six months from now it will be a lot more than that, six months it will be more than that, six months it will be more than that."
There was mixed reaction to the announcement. Oshawa mayor Dan Carter was positive.
“I believe this is a great starting point for our community...and 170 million dollar investment in the city of Oshawa, I’m pleased about that,” Carter said.
It’s expected that about half of the workers will take retirement packages. Some will be able to transfer to other GM locations.
It’s not clear yet when the transformation plan for the Oshawa plant will begin.