Dozens of employees at the General Motors plant in Oshawa walked off the job this morning following news that the company will stop production at the facility at the end of 2019.
After rumours began swirling over the weekend, GM announced Monday (Nov. 26) morning that Oshawa was among five factories facing closure as part of a restructuing effort. The others are in Michigan and Ohio.
Upwards of 15,000 people – including roughly 2,500 at the Oshawa plant – could lose their jobs.
“The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future,” said GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra in a press release.
“We recognize the need to stay in front of changing market conditions and customer preferences to position our company for long-term success.”
Unifor, the union representing the Oshawa workers, released a statement over the weekend with a news conference slated for this afternoon.
“Based on commitments made during 2016 contract negotiations, Unifor does not accept this announcement and is immediately calling on GM to live up to the spirit of that agreement,” it reads.
“Unifor is scheduled to hold a discussion with General Motors tomorrow and will provide further comment following the meeting.”
It shared video footage of employees in Oshawa walking off the job in protest on social media minutes after the announcement was made.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford also addressed the news shortly after GM’s announcement.
“Today is a difficult day for the workers at the General Motors Oshawa Assembly Plant. It is a difficult day for the thousands of workers at hundreds of Ontario auto part suppliers that depend on the GM Oshawa Assembly Plant for much of their business, as well as for workers and small business owners throughout Oshawa and the wider Durham Region. And it is also a difficult day for the spouses, the children and the families of these workers,” his statement reads.
“Today a lot of people are feeling shocked and saddened. I know some people are also feeling angry and betrayed. “
He added three points for those that will be impacted.
“First, for those who work in the auto industry, I want you to know that today’s news has nothing to do with the quality of the work you do. I will put the highly trained, professional autoworkers in Oshawa, or anywhere else in Ontario, up against anybody else in the world. It is disappointing that GM failed to see and build upon this competitive advantage. While the company is entitled to make its own business decisions, I am confident that history will prove them wrong,” the statement reads.
“Second, I want the people of Oshawa and the Durham Region to know that our government will always stand with you. Our government has already begun exploring measures to help impacted workers, businesses and communities cope with the aftermath of this decision. As a first step, I will be authorizing Employment Ontario to deploy its Rapid Re-Employment and Training Services program to provide impacted local workers with targeted local training and jobs services to help them regain employment as quickly as possible. We are looking at how best to align our programs to ensure maximum support is available for affected employees and their families. In speaking with GM, we have stressed the importance of supporting their employees through this difficult transition. We will also be calling for all three levels of government to work together to help impacted families receive the support and relief they need, while also ensuring that impacted businesses are quickly able to adapt their business models to take advantage of new opportunities.”
Ford called on the federal government to take action in support of workers.
“As a start, we are asking the federal government to immediately extend Employment Insurance (EI) eligibility to ensure impacted workers in the auto sector can fully access EI benefits when they need them most. There is a precedent for this kind of action that has been deployed in Alberta’s oil patch, and the people of Ontario are right to expect that the federal government will show a similar level of respect to the families that depend on Ontario’s auto sector,” the statement reads.
“We are also asking the federal government to work with their U.S. counterparts to remove all tariffs so that impacted auto parts suppliers can remain competitive after the Oshawa Assembly Plant closes its doors.”
While he described the announcement as “disappointing,” Ford said that it will not deter his government from “returning Ontario to its rightful place as one of the world’s premiere destinations for job creation and investment.”
Our province has immense resource riches, and sits at the crossroads of continental and global trade. Most importantly, we have a hard-working and educated workforce that is envy of the world. Unfortunately, years of economic mismanagement at multiple levels of government have squandered many of these advantages and, today, thousands of innocent families are being hurt as a result,” the statement concludes.
“The good news is that, working together, we can fix this. Our Government for the People will work day and night to make Ontario Open for Business once again.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also addressed the closure through social media.
“GM workers have been part of the heart and soul of Oshawa for generations – and we’ll do everything we can to help the families affected by this news get back on their feet. Yesterday, I spoke with @GM’s Mary Barra to express my deep disappointment in the closure,” he posted on Twitter.