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GM, Oshawa attempt to “rekindle” relationship

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Oshawa mayor John Henry shakes hands with Stephen Carlisle, president of General Motors of Canada, after taking possession of five new trucks for the city’s arsenal. With union negotiations on the horizon, Carlisle says the relationship between the automaker and the city remainds a strong one.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

While the bond between General Motors and Oshawa continues to be questioned, the two entities attempted a show of strength when the city received the keys to five new pickup trucks.

The trucks, to be used by city staffers, are part of the municipality’s annual fleet acquisitions, which total more than $3 million for 2016.

However, for Mayor John Henry, the trucks were a symbol of something larger.

“It’s a really exciting story, and another way that shows that General Motors is alive and the city of Oshawa is open for business,” he said.

Henry was joined by Stephen Carlisle, the president of General Motors of Canada, who handed over the keys to the five new Chevrolet Colorados, which were constructed at the automaker’s plant in Wentzville, Missouri.

“We’re proud to be able to provide these vehicles to the city and we are very much appreciative of the business,” he said. “These particular vehicles, I think, are a reflection of the growing global nature of the auto industry.”

The city purchases new vehicles on an annual basis, with these particular trucks slated to be used by the city’s engineering department, along with one more for parks staff.

While it is only his first year handing over the keys, Carlisle says he thinks its a sign of good faith between the two organizations.

“I may be overreaching a bit…but I do see it as a reflection of the relationship we’re trying to…rekindle I guess between General Motors and the City of Oshawa and the Region of Durham, so I take it as a positive sign of that,” Carlisle said.

Negotiations between GM and Unifor, the union that represents a larger portion of the workers at the Oshawa Assembly, are set to get underway later this year. The end of 2016 also marks the finalization of the Canadian Operational Continuation Agreement (COCA). The agreement was part of the bailout package General Motors received from the federal and provincial governments in 2009 and kept a proportion of the company’s production in Canada.

With both of these approaching milestones, many are worried it could spell the end of the car assembly in the plant, which currently employs approximately 2,800 people.

Carlisle would not comment on the plant’s future, but said that 2016 is an important year for the company and that negotiations with Unifor are set to get underway later this year, with further details to to be provided at that time.

“Nothing new to say, except we continue to work in a productive way with all our partners and we’ll be putting out best foot forward here as we get a little bit later in the year,” Carlisle said.