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Dias: GM wants to close plant

Negotiations underway for General Motors, Unifor; union head says automaker wants to stop making cars in Oshawa

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

Negotiations have gotten started between General Motors of Canada and the union representing its workers.

And according to the top man at Unifor, the future of Oshawa Assembly – and the future of auto manufacturing in Canada as a whole – are at stake.

Speaking with The Oshawa Express following the first few days of negotiations, Jerry Dias, the president of Unifor, says General Motors has one thing in mind for its future in Canada: shut down Oshawa.

“When General Motors says, ‘Listen, we’re going to get through negotiations first and then we’ll make decisions,’ that tells us that we are absolutely correct that General Motors’ intention is to close the Oshawa plant. That’s not going to happen,” he says, adding that it is hypocritical for GM to take this position when, during negotiations with the United Autoworkers for its operations down in the U.S., it announced it was committing $8.3 billion in new investments for American plants, resulting in 3,500 new jobs.

“For them to do that last year and then to come and tell us that, somehow, that we’re going to deal with product allocation afterwards is not going to happen.”

In a community update posted to General Motors of Canada’s website as negotiations were getting underway, Stephen Carlisle, the president of GM’s Canadian operations, reiterated that no new product for Oshawa will be announced until after negotiations are completed.

“As we have underscored for the past two years, GM won’t make any future product decisions for Oshawa Assembly until after these negotiations. In Canada, we are extremely proud of the experience, quality and productivity of our workforce as we work together to deliver excellent vehicles for our customers,” Carlisle states in a release posted to General Motors’ website.

“It’s important for this agreement to reflect that contribution while also ensuring we remain flexible, innovative and internationally competitive for future investments.”

Unifor, however, has taken an opposing position, saying that no new deal will be signed with the automaker until a commitment has been made to keep the lines running in Oshawa, with new product being made there.

Dias says that new product needs to make its way to Oshawa, and not be sent to countries such as Mexico, which has seen heavy investment by General Motors in recent years.

“General Motors received $10.8 billion from the federal and provincial governments in 2008. The Mexican government did not put in one nickel. Yet, nine of the last 11 new assembly plants have gone to Mexico. The other two have gone to the southern U.S.,” he says.

“In my opinion, GM has a strategic plan of beefing up Mexico at the chagrin of Canada and the United States. That is not going to happen.”