By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
On Friday, a worker at the Oshawa Assembly was putting the final touches on the last Chevrolet Camaro to roll off the line.
While the details of the last Oshawa-built Camaro are scarce at this point, what is known is that with the loss of the car’s production comes the loss of jobs.
General Motors of Canada officially announced in June that the next-generation Camaro would not be produced in Oshawa, with production being shifted to Michigan. The Camaro wasn’t the only thing leaving Oshawa Assembly, with the automaker also announcing 1,000 jobs would be cut from the plant’s workforce through incentivized retirement offers.
“There’s obviously going to be a lot of pain going through our plant and through our suppliers,” Ron Svajlenko, the president of Unifor Local 222, the union representing workers at the plant, told The Oshawa Express the day before Camaro production was scheduled to end. “This is the second shoe falling.”
Svajlenko says that while the shift for Camaros isn’t going away with the end of production, it won’t be around much longer.
“We had a reduction in line speed back in July. With the end of Camaro production, in about a month that shift will be lost,” he said. “We got some increase in our (Chevrolet) Impala sales, so that’s kept us going for an extra month, but there’s going to be a lot of people out of work in the Oshawa area because of that exit and the eventual loss of that shift.”
Adria MacKenzie, General Motors of Canada’s corporate communications manager, tells The Oshawa Express that increased production of the Chevrolet Equinox has resulted in extra hours at the plant.
“The Camaro’s end of production at Oshawa has long been planned for and carefully managed through incentivized retirements to avoid layoffs and at the same time we have increased Chevrolet Equinox production on our Oshawa Consolidated Line, requiring ongoing Saturday overtime,” said MacKenzie in an emailed statement to The Oshawa Express. “We continue to produce five different vehicles at Oshawa Assembly and work with our union, government and other partners with respect to determining longer-term production.”
The Camaro has been one of the hottest selling vehicles from the Oshawa Assembly, with more than 420,000 units sold between 2009 when it first entered production and 2014.
Although production of the Camaro has ended at the Oshawa Assembly, Svajlenko says he remains enthusiastic for the plant’s future, especially now that union negotiations have concluded south of the border.
“We’ve looked at the new (United Auto Workers) agreement, between them and General Motors, and I feel that we were competitive before, so we’re considerably more competitive now. We see some opportunities for our members to make some gains in addition to looking for some sort of long-term product commitment from General Motors,” he said. “So I’d say we’re very positive right now. The future is brighter.”
United Auto Workers (UAW), the union representing many autoworkers across the United States, reached a tentative deal with General Motors late last month, coming only 16 minutes before the union was set to walk out on strike.
The deal was ratified by union members on Friday. The new deal didn’t come without some hiccups, as it had originally been voted on by union members earlier in the month. While a majority of the union’s membership voted in favour of ratifying the agreement at the time, the majority of members working in the skilled trades initially rejected the deal.