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Unifor President Jerry Dias

Six months ago, former mayor John Henry said it was a “cold, dark day” in Oshawa, but current mayor Dan Carter is happy to see some sunshine.

Unifor and General Motors have announced the company will invest upwards of $170 million in the Oshawa plant.

The $170 million will be used to transition the facility from manufacturing vehicles to stamping, sub-assembly and autonomous vehicle testing.

GM Canada president Travis Hester said the investment will save approximately 300 of the 2,600 union jobs at the plant.

It was previously announced in late-November 2018 the plant would be closing by the end of 2019, with GM stating its intentions to no longer manufacture vehicles in the City of Oshawa.

The Oshawa plant was one of several closures announced at the time, with plants also being closed in the United States.

Hester made the announcement alongside Unifor national president Jerry Dias at a press conference.

Dias said the announcement was a ray of hope in what has been a trying time for workers.

“By maintaining a footprint in Oshawa, and keeping the plant intact, we save hundreds of jobs and this gives us the ability to build and create new jobs in the future. We are in a much better position than we were five months ago when the plant was closing,” Dias said in a media release.

Hester said, “This new business will retain 300 Oshawa jobs, with the intent to grow and generate significant additional jobs in the coming years as the business attracts new customers.”

He says GM will also convert 55 acres at the south end of the Oshawa plant into a test track for autonomous and advanced vehicle testing.

“This is very significant as it will not only support jobs, it will continue to grow our engineering and software development workforce based just across the road at the Oshawa technical centre, and our new Markham technical centre,” said Hester.

Transition plans for employees include special relocation opportunities to other Ontario operations.

“Now as we’ve noted over the past months, about 50 per cent of our hourly employees will be eligible for their GM retirement pension later this year, and we will offer enhanced retirement packages to approximately 1,300 of these employees,” said Hester.

These packages will include vouchers towards the purchase of a new GM vehicle, and Unifor will meet with members to discuss specific details later.

Hester also announced GM intends to donate the three-acre Fenelon Park and the 87-acre McLaughlin Bay Waterfront Wildlife Preserve to the City of Oshawa.

Durham regional chair and CEO John Henry called the announcement “welcome news.”

“We are very happy to hear that GM Canada will continue to be a part of Durham’s innovative tech cluster with plans that include converting part of the Oshawa plant into a test track for autonomous and advanced technology vehicles,” Henry said in a released statement. “GM has made it clear they intend to grow and maintain the integrity of their operations in Durham Region. These plans will further our ability to support an autonomous vehicle industry cluster in Durham Region.”

Oshawa MP Colin Carrie said in a statement, “Today’s announcement that GM Canada will retain approximately 300 jobs at Oshawa Car Assembly is a small but positive step following this past November’s devastating news for our community.”

However, he noted he remains concerned about the rest of the workers and their families, as only 300 of the 2,600 jobs will remain at the plant.

“A significant number of current hourly and salaried workers lack the years of service required to be eligible to retire with dignity when vehicle assembly operations cease in the coming months. For the sake of these hourly and salaried employees, we hope that GM Canada will continue to work with stakeholders to return production or related manufacturing mandates to Oshawa,” Carrie’s statement reads.