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End of an era

Production at Oshawa GM plant set to end today

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

The final vehicle is scheduled to roll off the production line at General Motors’ Oshawa assembly plant at some point today, ending the company’s 100 year run in the city.

As of The Oshawa Express’ press time Jennifer Wright, director of communications for GM Canada,  confirmed the shutdown of the longstanding plant is set for Wednesday, however, she explained those plans could change.

On Nov. 29, 2018, General Motors announced it would be shutting down the historic Oshawa plant by the end of this year, putting more than 2,500 employees out of work.

Union officials vowed to fight the plant’s closure, but an agreement was signed in May 2019 to keep on 300 employees in Oshawa for stamping operations.

Wright said some of those workers have already transitioned to their new positions, while others will do so shortly.

“That will gradually start to be on-boarded in the new year,” she said.

Colin James, president of Unifor Local 222, previously told The Oshawa Express the feeling among plant workers is a “double-edged sword” heading into the final week.

For those who will be looking for new jobs, James said the “uncertainty is difficult.”

Employees who are heading into retirement and will be receiving severance packages from the company are in a “better position,” he adds.

The plant’s closure also raises questions for the future of the local union.

James said Local 222 will lose more than 60 per cent of its membership.

According to him, there may have to be downsizing of the union’s hall on Phillip Murray Avenue in Oshawa.

“We’re going to do everything we can do to maintain the location that we have right now,” he said.

James noted he will remain on as president for the next year before retiring himself.

General Motors is also building a track for autonomous and advanced vehicle testing.

The 55-acre facility will be located at the south end of GM’s plant near Phillip Murray Avenue and Stevenson Road in Oshawa’s south end.

The track is expected to open in 2020, but Wright said the early onset of winter weather has affected construction.

Wright added discussions are ongoing in regards to what will happen to land and facilities the company doesn’t require moving forward.

James admits when the end does come, it will be a bittersweet moment.

“Unfortunately after 100 years of building quality vehicles, GM has gone in the direction of no longer building quality vehicles in Oshawa. It just goes to show one bad decision can affect a whole community,” James said. “I’d just like to thank the community of Oshawa and the surrounding area for supporting us, even during the campaign to save the plant.”