By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
With contract negotiations with General Motors looming in the coming months, Unifor is taking a hard stance on the future of car production in Oshawa – if there is no new product announced for the assembly, there is no deal with the union.
Speaking to a room full of workers clad in grey “No product, no contract” T-shirts, Colin James, the president of Unifor Local 222, said that after years of sacrifices by the union’s members and people across the country, it is about time General Motors pay back, as the closure of the plant would have devastating effects.
“The impact that it would have on the community would be very grave,” James said, referring to a potential closure.
“Canadian taxpayers did not bail out GM just so they could move (production) to Mexico.”
The notion of refusing to sign a contract with the automaker unless its future is secure was first mentioned by Jerry Dias, Unifor’s president, in a memo sent to Oshawa’s plant workers.
“We have advised General Motors, in no uncertain terms, they will not have an agreement with our union this fall without a solution for Oshawa,” Dias writes in the note to Oshawa workers.
“You can be assured that you have the full support of our entire union with 310,000 members across the country. Our resolve is being tested already and may be tested even more in the months ahead, but with the support of every member, your families, your neighbours and the entire community, I am confident we will win a secure future for Oshawa.”
Greg Moffat, Unifor’s GM master bargaining committee chairperson, told union members that all the union wants is for its members to be rewarded for years of hard work, including going nine years without a raise.
“We’ve won multiple awards for GM, and all we want is a secure future,” he said.
“(GM) can tell us they’re building driverless cars in the next 10 to 15 years, but they can’t tell us if they’re building in Oshawa in the next two to three years? I find that hard to believe.”
General Motors has maintained that it will not be announcing any new product at the plant until a contract has been signed with Unifor. The difference in views could lead to a strike when negotiations come to a head this fall.
However, Moffat says he does not want to see a repeat of what happened to the truck plant in 2009 after more than four decades in operation, despite a three-week strike the year before against the decision.
“We’re not in the business of going on strike. We’re in the business of keeping people working, and that’s what we intend to do this fall,” Moffat said.
“No one’s looking for another truck plant. I was a truck plant chairperson back in 2008, and it’s not what we’re looking for. We’re looking, along with our partners and General Motors, to announce a bright future. We don’t want to get into that kind of thing at all. That didn’t have a very happy ending, and we’re not looking for that. We’re looking to sit down with General Motors and make this plant the best it can be.”