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GM rejects Unifor proposals

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

After meeting with company officials this afternoon, Unifor’s national president says General Motors remains steadfast in plans to close the Oshawa assembly plant.

Jerry Dias, along with other union representatives, spoke in Windsor at 4 p.m. after the meeting held in Detroit.

“I’m deeply disappointed at the response from the corporation,” Dias said. “The company was quite adamant about defending the position and the announcement they made on the 26th of November.”

Dias alleged company officials had “acknowledged they could continue to build the programs that are currently in place in Oshawa,” and keeping the plant open “wouldn’t hurt the company’s bottom line.”

However, In a statement signed by GM Canada president Travis Hester and General Motors VP of manufacturing and labour relations Gerald Johnson, the company said the proposals brought to them by Unifor would result in increased costs and would harm the company’s competitive position.

General Motors stood by earlier reasoning for the plant’s closure, including a declining market for cars such as the Impala and XTS, both built in Oshawa, and low utilization of the capacity at the city’s plant.

The company also stated it had previously considered some of the proposals brought forward by the union on Tuesday.

Dias said despite being “faced with all the facts…in my opinion, they haven’t reached far enough, or deep enough to find a solution.”

“This is about greed…it’s about corporate greed. And a lack of an acknowledgement of the role of not only Canadian workers but American workers, in the success of General Motors.”

Dias said General Motors made $6 billion in the first nine months of this financial year and is seeing record level sales.

He questioned if they choose to close plants when seeing that kind of success, “how can we expect General Motors to stay in Canada in a time when the market declines.”

“No autoworker in this country, or frankly in the United States, should feel comfortable.”

Greg Moffatt, Unifor Local 222 plant chair, appealed for the support of Canadians.

“We need you more than ever,” he said.

He targeted the provincial and federal governments as well.

“When you remain sitting silent, thousands and thousands of Canadians will be thrown out of work,” he said.

Unifor is planning a “major demonstration” in Windsor this Friday, and expects thousands to attend, Dias said.

In the statement to Unifor, the company proposed it would review its timing of when certain outputs will wrap up in Oshawa this year, and discuss transition plans for workers who may elect to retire or pursue new careers.

Furthermore, General Motors says it has identified up to 5,000 job opportunities for impacted workers at more than 20 businesses in the Durham Region and the GTA.

When asked if the union would consider litigation against the company like the United Auto Workers in the U.S., Dias said they are considering their legal options.

However, at the end of the day, the only solution Unifor will accept is the plant to stay open.