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Local Unifor president stresses deal isn’t perfect

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

While for many the deal made to save 300 jobs at the Oshawa GM plant seems like a blessing, the head of the local union says it isn’t the perfect situation.

According to Colin James, president of Unifor Local 222, the branch which represents the Oshawa General Motors plant workers, the new deal isn’t the best outcome as there are still thousands of jobs that will be cut.

“We’ve still have members losing work,” he told The Oshawa Express. “We have thousands of members that are going to be out of work, especially in our supplier facilities.”

However, James concedes Unifor “made the best of a bad situation.”

It was recently announced GM would invest $170 million into the Oshawa plant, and save 300 jobs in the process, after initially announcing the plant would be shutting down operations at the end of 2019.

Work at the plant will transfer from vehicle assembly to stamping, related sub-assembly, and autonomous vehicle testing.

It is expected the number of jobs at the plant will grow to 500 within three years.

Of the 2,600 workers currently employed at the Oshawa plant, around 1,300 are eligible to receive retirement packages.

GM is offering retirement incentives of $130,000 and a $10,000 car voucher to those who have 30 years of service, and are offering bridging packages to those who are close to retiring.

Workers who are younger and also have less than 10 years of experience are eligible to be bought out by the company for packages ranging from $10,000 to $40,000, all depending on the number of years with the company.

The automotive giant is also offering employment opportunities in St. Catharines and Woodstock for those who are willing to move to one of those locations.

According to James, the 300 employees remaining in the plant will be chosen strictly by seniority.

James says the union would have loved to see more jobs in the deal, and that is their only concern.

“Of course, I do not want to portray that this is great, or that our members are ecstatic because, like I said, we still have thousands of members out of work, and then there’s members that are non-union jobs that are affected too, so we can’t be jumping up and down with joy when we’ve got thousands of people out of work,” says James.

“In a perfect scenario, I’d rather not be talking closure or any retention agreements, I’d rather be talking about the next generation of product for our members,” he adds.

However, he says most workers at the plant feel representatives at Unifor did their best.

“Most of the workers feel it is a good agreement,” he says.