By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
Mayors from all around Ontario met with major players in the automotive sector in Oshawa to discuss the future of the industry in the province.
Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter and the various self-described “Auto-Mayors” discussed the ongoing need to keep the auto industry competitive all over the globe.
Among those in attendance were Carter, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, and General motors vice-president David Paterson, and the main message was one of hope.
Carter believes the meeting was an overall success.
“Today was an opportunity to bring all of the ‘auto-caucus mayors’ together from all across the province of Ontario,” Carter told the Oshawa Express. “I was really pleased to see many of the mayors were able to be with us today, and just talk about the future of the automotive industry.”
Carter said not only did they speak about recent events, but where the auto-sector needs to go to be successful in Ontario.
“I think today was the moment where we wanted to come together and say, ‘Look, we understand there’s a shift that’s happening in manufacturing, we understand there’s a shift in consumerism, we understand there’s a shift in transportation and the automobile industry, where do we fit, and how do we find our way forward to be able to be part of the solution as we look at the future of the automobile industry?’”
Carter also said he can’t reiterate enough that “each and every day I start my day by thinking about those that have been impacted by this announcement [of the closure of GM’s Oshawa plant], and each and every night I finish my day by thinking about the impact this announcement has had.”
As this was a meeting about the automotive industry in Ontario, it was inevitable the closure of the GM plant in Oshawa would come up.
Carter said the city and GM have to find a way “to make sure that people have the opportunity to be able to either continue to work for General Motors – which I believe we’ll hear some positive things that may be coming out shortly – and also those that are moving onto other positions. How are we equipping them so that they can have great, quality, good paying jobs to be able to provide enough for their families.”
Carter notes he thinks this is one of the most interesting times in memory for the automotive industry, and he thinks it would be “a wonderful exercise for us to be able to say collectively together, ‘how are we going compete as we move forward?’” Paterson said, “We’ve been here for 100 years in Oshawa, and we intend to be here for another 100 years.”
With the announcement Unifor has suspended their #SaveOshawaGM campaign, negotiations between the union and GM have finally begun again, but nothing has been decided yet according to Paterson.
“It’s a process. You work through that with great respect on both sides of the table,” said Paterson. “We are trying to do the very best for the people in that plant and for the community.”
Paterson noted the company has been approached by about 50 employers he said have approximately 6,000 available jobs.
“Those employers have said ‘We would hire everybody in that plant.’ These are highly respected workers, and so we need to keep that in mind and we need to focus on solutions,” he said.
Paterson said some companies which have approached GM include Ontario Power Generation, Bruce Nuclear, a mixture of other unionized jobs, and apprenticeships.