In the coming weeks, what have been described as friendly chats will likely come to an end. General niceties will make way for demands from both sides of the table. The results of these talks could go one of two ways: General Motors will sign a new deal with Unifor, and production will continue at the Oshawa Assembly, or the automaker will close the doors on the plant, putting thousands out of a job.
However, recent events have shown that General Motors still sees Canada and Oshawa as a viable place to do business, announcing at a star-studded event that it would be expanding its research and development operations in the city, as well as other parts of the province, resulting in up to 1,000 new jobs. While that isn’t a commitment to continue to produce vehicles in Oshawa, it is definitely nothing to sneeze at. Jobs are jobs at the end of the day, and bringing in more skilled workers that will live and spend their money in Durham Region will be a benefit in the long run.
But those gains will be short lived if the Oshawa Assembly shuts down. After all, a few hundred jobs is great, but its benefits will be undone if thousands of assembly workers, along with the jobs in the parts plants that rely on Oshawa to stay open, are suddenly out of work.
So with negotiations heating up this summer, and looking to come to a head in September if chatter at the recent General Motors announcement are anything to go by, both sides are going to have to sit down and come up with what will be the best solution for this city.
Perhaps that future will be producing electric cars, like the plan backed by city council. As automakers move away from gas guzzling cars to more and more green vehicles, production is inevitably going to go up – in fact, sales in 2015 were more than 30 per cent higher than the year before. As the price of the technology comes down and becomes an affordable option for the average car buyer, production numbers are going to go up, and the numbers are going to have to come from somewhere. Why not use Oshawa to help meet that demand? After all, with the automaker investing as much as it is into research and development for its future models – and it has directly expressed that future includes electric vehicles – why not have the production in the same place?
Whatever type of vehicle being produced in Oshawa, one can only hope that the announcements and news come September are positive for those that make their living making cars. The city needs it.
And one can only hope the union, while fighting for what’s best for its members, doesn’t get lost in its own rhetoric and forgets the workers on the line that rely on that paycheque.