Days after General Motors rejected Unifor’s proposals to keep its plant in Oshawa, Ont., operational past 2019, the union representing its workers will stage a rally in Windsor.
Friday’s rally is part of an ongoing campaign launched by Unifor to reverse GM’s decision and will be held at Dieppe Gardens — which is visible, across the river, from the automaker’s building in Detroit, Mich. The union staged a similar rally last month.
On Dec. 8, Unifor national president Jerry Dias expressed his disappointment in the company’s decision and said the union will not accept the closure “under any circumstance.”
In a statement, GM said the company had analyzed the union’s proposals, but rejected them because “they all would involve substantial incremental costs and a further deterioration of GM’s competitive position.”
The company announced it will be closing the Oshawa plant, along with four other U.S. plants, in November. The plant opened in 1918.
More than 2,500 employees in Oshawa will lose their jobs.
According to automotive consultant Dennis DesRosiers, Unifor’s efforts won’t change GM’s decision, because keeping the plant open wouldn’t make the company competitive.
“At the root of General Motors’ problems, it’s [that] they’re losing market share,” said DesRosiers.
He said it’s unfortunate that thousands will lose their jobs, but that the future of the auto industry lies in electric and autonomous vehicles — areas which GM said it will be focusing.
DesRosiers points to GM’s new research centre in Markham, Ont., where the company hired 500 people last year and plans to hire up to 1,000 technical engineers.
But the Oshawa plant wouldn’t be used to produce those electric vehicles, he said, because there isn’t enough demand to justify having an electric vehicle plant.
“It’s too early for the plant, but it’s not too early to go after the intellectual jobs tied to developing electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and ridesharing programs,” said DesRosiers.
“There’s thousands and thousands of those jobs, that’s what [Dias] should be going and pounding on the desk of GM, Detroit, about.”
GM said half of the Oshawa workers who are paid hourly are eligible for retirement. The company said it will offer supports such as a full pension, a “significant lump sum retirement incentive payment” and a $20,000 car voucher.
For others, workers may be eligible for a program which includes a payment to assist them to find new work and continued health-care coverage.
The rally starts at 11 a.m. ET.