GM Canada ‘committing millions of dollars’ to support employees impacted by plant closures

Nearly three weeks after General Motors announced the closure of its Oshawa plant, the company has announced plans to commit financial support to help its employees prepare for 2,400 “good, available new jobs” estimated to open in the Durham Region area over the next two years.

“My priority is to have a transition plan for every Oshawa Assembly employee,” said GM Canada president and managing director, Travis Hester in a release Friday (Dec. 14).

“We will work with our community colleges, universities, the government and all interested local employers, to make this happen and we are committing millions of dollars from GM Canada to support this effort.”

In the days leading up to the closure announcement, Unifor, the union representing the Oshawa workers, released a statement indicating they did not accept the announcement and called on GM to “live up to the spirit” of the agreement made during 2016 contract negotiations.  At this time, it does not appear as though Unifor has issued a statement regarding General Motors’ plan to commit funding to assist employees.

According to Friday’s release from General Motors, GM Canada has been contacted by a variety of individual employers with job opportunities for the highly skilled employees at Oshawa Assembly. Job fairs and targeted training programs are being prepared by a coalition of local partners to help auto workers transition to their next careers. More details of specific support from GM Canada and others are expected to be confirmed as the company works with Unifor and its partners.

Since the General Motors Accelerated Transformation announcement on November 26, GM Canada and its community partners have reportedly identified:

  • 300 open jobs for auto technicians at GM dealerships in Ontario;
  • 100 jobs that will be open at GM’s other facilities in Ontario;
  • 2,000 jobs in energy and other industries in Durham;
  • A first local initiative: a one-stop, confidential portal will be launched in the new year by Durham College to help auto workers identify job openings, learn about new careers and begin training plans to ensure a smooth career transition. This will be followed by other on-line tools to assist auto workers.

“Durham Region employers know what we know,” said Hester.

“Oshawa Assembly workers set the standard for excellence in quality, productivity and innovative practices. They will continue to be a backbone of this community as our economy and our industry transform.”

“I especially want to thank Durham College President Don Lovisa and the many other educational institutions in the community who have come together to help our employees get a head start at new careers,” Hester added.

“Hundreds of GM Oshawa workers and retirees call Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock home,” Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, said in November.

“Over the years, I have met many of these hardworking men and women. They are dedicated employees who have every reason to be proud of the great work they have done over the years to build the Oshawa Assembly into one of GM’s best production facilities. Many are also deeply involved in our communities as volunteers.”

Scott noted that her government would take “immediate action” to assist affected GM employees, in part by deploying Employment Ontario’s Rapid Re-Employment Training Services, which will assist workers with accessing services and employment opportunities.

At the time of the original announcement, Jamie Schmale, MP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, emphasized the importance of helping those impacted to get back on their feet.

“We are not ready to throw in the towel yet, because we know that if we don’t fight for these jobs today, they won’t come back tomorrow. We need to push to increase investment attractiveness in Canada, in order to create a business-friendly environment for future generations,” he said in the legislature on Nov. 26.

More than 50 per cent of Oshawa Assembly permanent hourly workers now qualify for a GM Canada defined benefit pension, providing them a choice to move to retirement, according the the company’s release. GM’s November announcement impacts 2,600 hourly workers and approximately 340 salaried or contract workers at the Oshawa Assembly Plant.

According to the release, GM Canada will continue to discuss its announcements regarding Oshawa Assembly with Unifor.

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