General Motors is going ahead with plans to close its consolidated plant in Oshawa, Ont., in what its union calls a "disgusting" move it says will eliminate 2,000 jobs directly and many thousands more indirectly.
"Obviously it's devastating news," Chris Buckley, president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 222 said in an interview after the union received confirmation notice Friday of the pending closure.
"Over 2,000 GM workers are finding out today that they with lose their job as of June 2013.
"And, when you look at the spinoff employment created as a result of auto assembly, there will be more like 18,000 jobs that will be lost as a result of General Motors' terrible decision today."
Buckley said he's "absolutely disgusted" with the move, saying in 2009 CAW members, both active and retired, were forced to make significant sacrifices in order to save the company.
"And this is GM's way of rewarding our members," he said.
Besides the consolidated plant, GM also has a flex assembly plant in Oshawa that is getting a share of the production of the new Chevy Impala, which is also being built at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in Michigan.
The flex line currently employs 2,000 people assembling the Chevy Camaro, Buick Regal and soon, the Cadillac XTS.
The consolidated plant, which produces the Chevrolet Impala and the Equinox, was originally scheduled to close 2008. But due to the market demand for the current generation Chevrolet Impala and the subsequent addition of the Equinox shuttle program, it has remained in business.
However, beginning in the fourth quarter of this year, the third shift at the plant will be removed, then the second shift in the first quarter of next year, General Motors of Canada Ltd. said Friday.
"As previously announced the consolidated line will cease at the end of scheduled life cycle for the current generation Impala. This is currently anticipated to occur in June 2013," the company said.
However, Buckley said the union isn't giving up on the plant, arguing both the federal and Ontario governments should get involved because they remain major shareholders to the tune of $8 billion as a result of government bailouts of the auto industry.
"So I challenge both our federal and provincial governments to join with the Canadian Autos Workers in attempting to reverse GM's decision," he said.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said while the closure was expected it is "disappointing," and suggested he'd be willing to work with GM to extend the facility's lifespan.
"It had been originally scheduled to close in 2008. We've been very grateful for the extension to this point in time," McGuinty said in Ottawa.
"If there's any way at all possible that we might work with GM to extend that even further obviously we'd be more than pleased to consider that."
Buckley said the addition of the Impala at the flex plant means that, at best, a third shift would be added, raising employment at the plant to 2,500.
"And that would be consumer driven," he said, meaning any additional work would depend on the vehicle's popularity.
Buckley said the two plants would be "levelled off" based on seniority, meaning that some workers at the consolidated plant will get to keep their jobs and move to flex plant, while some workers at the flex plant will be among those getting layoff notices.
"The most senior people stay, the most junior people are forced to the street," he said.
Buckley said it would be the union's "top priority" to maintain the consolidated plant when it heads into collective bargaining this summer.
"I'm not feeling very comfortable as of today that General Motors will entertain our idea of keeping the plant open but we're not going to stop pressing them," he added.
GM has been scaling back its overall operations in Canada as part of a North American restructuring begun two years ago under bankruptcy court protection. That streamlining led to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs at the company's Canadian and U.S. operations and the shutdown of several plants.
In Canada, GM has already closed a truck plant in Oshawa and a transmission factory in Windsor, Ont.
GM Canada currently employs more than 10,000 people across the country. In its heyday, the automaker had more than twice that total and major operations in Windsor, Oshawa and St. Catharines, Ont.
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