By Dave Flaherty/ The Oshawa Express
Music icon Sting believes plans to close Oshawa’s GM plant are fueled by the company’s desire to pay workers lower wages.
The former frontman of The Police held a special performance of his musical “The Last Ship” at the Tribute Communities Centre.
Plant employees, Unifor colleagues, families, friends and other members of the public formed long lines outside the TCC the morning of Valentine’s Day.
“The Last Ship” is currently in the midst of a run at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre.
The musical is set in the UK community of Newcastle, Sting’s hometown, and focuses on the impact of the closure of the local shipyard.
Sting told media after the show there is an “uncanny” resemblance between the local situation and what happened in his hometown.
“We wanted to come here and express our solidarity and support,” he said, stating the company’s plan to close the local plant was because “they just want to pay workers less in another place.”
“That’s just not right,” he said, noting he could see “worry” and “genuine concern” on the faces of workers he met before the show.
Growing up just down the road from the shipyard, Sting remarked, “As a young kid, I would think that was my destiny. Because everyone worked in the shipyard.”
According to Hall of Fame musician, some of the world’s “finest ships” were built there before the UK government closed it in the 1980s.
“The work was incredibly hard and dangerous,” Sting said, adding the workers were “incredibly proud.”
While he would eventually leave his hometown and go on to rock super-stardom, Sting wrote “The Last Ship” as an homage to his origins.
“I realized at one point in my life I had to return back home, and honour the community I was spawned in because their story hadn’t been told.”
By coming to Oshawa, he wanted to do the same.
“We are telling our story, and it’s important your story is heard,” Sting said. “This can’t be buried under a political carpet.”
Prior to introducing Sting, Unifor national president Jerry Dias quoted The Police’s 1983 number one hit “Every Breath You Take.”
“This is a message to GM. Every move you make, every vow you break, every smile you fake, every claim you stake, we’ll be watching you.”