By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Following a much heralded announcement from General Motors that an expansion in advanced manufacturing work would bring up to 1,000 new jobs to the province, with many of those in Oshawa, councillors were still scratching their chins.
“That presentation actually caused me great concern,” says Councillor Nancy Diamond.
Now, with GM having no production mandate in Canada beyond the end of year and contract negotiations with Unifor – the union representing the assembly line’s workers – set to get heated this summer, councillors are putting their cards on the table.
“I think that we need, as a council, to stand with the workers…to stand up and say we are with these workers and we know that they can compete.”
In a motion carried unanimously through council chambers, councillors are calling for the automaker to bring the production of electric vehicles to Oshawa.
In her motion, seconded by Councillor John Shields, Diamond notes that with the multitude of international awards earned by the Oshawa workers, they have shown they are capable of handling the advanced technologies.
Currently, General Motors produces two electric vehicles, the Chevrolet Volt and the Chevrolet Spark EV, with a third, the Chevrolet Bolt, set to hit the market later this year. Both the Volt and the upcoming Bolt are produced in Michigan, while the Spark EV is made in South Korea.
Along with that, council will extended an invitation to Mary Barra, General Motors’ president, to come visit the city and meet with council, stakeholders and our other political leaders.
The motion stemmed from the appearance of local residents and activists Larry Ladd and Gord Vickers, who suggested the idea.
“We are very worried about the continuing loss of product and jobs with no new or additional hourly rated jobs announced for the GM manufacturing and assembly facility,” Ladd said.
Vickers was slightly more strong-worded in his sentiments toward the automaker, calling its actions “shameful.”
“We didn’t bailout GM for $10 billion just for them to give a lifeline to Mexico,” he said. “I don’t know what more we can do to keep GM here…we’ve done everything possible to satisfy them.”
The motion was well supported by councillors who have now requested the mayor extend the invitation to Barra.
Mayor John Henry, who is a member of the Ontario Auto Mayors – a group that pushes for support in the upper levels of governments for large cities that support the auto industry – said that he was “absolutely in support of the direction of this motion.”