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GM workers set up blockades at corporate headquarters

Unifor national president Jerry Dias speaks as the union set up blockades at General Motors’ corporate headquarters in Oshawa. Dias says similar protests can be expected over the next few days (Photo by Dave Flaherty)

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Assembly plant employees and other Unifor members formed blockades at General Motors corporate headquarters in Oshawa Wednesday.
The union began congregating at the headquarters on Colonel Sam McLaughlin Drive around 6 a.m. this morning and remain on site.
Unifor national president Jerry Dias told media the company told them what they are doing is illegal.
However, Dias said more protests are planned for the rest of the week, although he didn’t specify locations and times.
Dias said he found the message from GM ironic.
“Let me tell you what is illegal, it’s illegal when you take $11 billion from Canadian taxpayers, and then announce the closure of an assembly plant that has been in this country for 100 years,” the union leader stated.
Dias also called for the company to live up to a 2016 contract with workers he says guaranteed no plant closures during the term of the agreement.
“Based on General Motors’ commitment, our young members went out and bought homes, bought new cars, and started families. People made decisions based on General Motors’ commitment and General Motors does not have the right to go against their written word,” Dias said.
Closing the Oshawa plant would not be just a betrayal to the city and the workers, but “all of Canada,” he alleged.
Dias questioned the company’s decision to close numerous plants in Canada and the U.S. while expanding operations in Mexico.
“When you say that you build where you sell, you aren’t telling the truth.”
He said the company would be producing more than 1 million cars annually in Mexico, but only sells approximately 240,000 vehicles in the country each year.
When asked about calling for a full boycott of GM products, Dias said he would never take that step as it would hurt workers at plants not slated to close.
Dias called on the province and the federal government to stand in solidarity with them.
“The bottom line is our politicians need to step up in a very serious way. Government can do a lot of things to get companies’ attention.”
Admitting he believes General Motors has already set the wheels in motion to get a court injunction to stop such protests, Dias said nonetheless they would continue.
He said the issue “will not be resolved in the courtroom, it will be resolved at the bargaining table.”
“One thing that’s for sure, this plant isn’t going to close,” he said.