‘Deeply disappointed’: Unifor president Jerry Dias reacts after GM meeting

The General Motors car assembly plant in Oshawa Ontario.
Eduardo Lima  The Canadian Press  
THE CANADIAN PRESS

General Motors refused to budge from its plans to stop producing vehicles at the Oshawa Assembly Plant, yet Unifor Canada vowed to keep fighting to save the facility that employs almost 3,000 people despite the apparent dead end.

Unifor president Jerry Dias met with GM officials Tuesday afternoon and said at a news conference in Windsor after that GM will not change its position on the closing.

"Hold on, we're not backing down" said Dias.

"Workers are no wreturning to the line with production expected to resume shortly", read a second release.

Volpe acknowledged that investors have responded positively to the restructuring from a product perspective and capacity utilization perspective, but said GM is "so much more than the stock ticker".

The meeting came after GM's "accelerated transformation" announcement on November 26, 2018, which would see the Oshawa plant close in 2019.

Whether the union will have any luck convincing GM to stay in Oshawa remains to be seen, especially since GM hasn't backed away from plans to shutter American facilities.

"There have been strategic decisions to move products from Canada to Mexico", Dias said. That includes a TV ad now running in Detroit that states Canadians gave GM a bailout of nearly $11 Billion when it was in bankruptcy a decade ago.

The company also said about half of the 2,600 hourly workers are eligible for a pension.

Already late Tuesday, Unifor members at the Oshawa Assembly Plant began staging a sit-down protest on the job to express their outrage following the meeting with GM on the future of the plant.

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"Having completed an analysis of Unifor's proposals, GM has determined that it can not pursue them because they would not combat the declining economic and market factors that must be addressed", the automaker said in the letter from GM Canada president Travis Hester.

GM has said they won't change plans because it will cost them more to operate and make them less competitive.

He vowed Unifor would step up its current ad campaign urging the company to reconsider. A large rally is planned in Windsor on Friday.

The union is also considering its legal options, Dias said.

"I'm furious right now", Dias added.

While Unifor vowed it will not advocate for a boycott of GM products, the union leader believes Canadian auto buyers are already steering away following the Oshawa plant announcement.

Colin James, president of Unifor Local 222 in Oshawa, speaks to the media with Unifor national leader Jerry Dias on Tuesday at the Unifor Local 444/200 hall following their meeting with General Motors executives in Detroit.

David Paterson, spokesman for General Motors, said the proposals had already been considered and rejected by the automaker.

The meeting came a day after Unifor launched TV advertisements lambasting GM for the slated closures on networks across Canada and in Detroit, where GM plans to close the storied Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant that manufactures the hybrid Chevy Volt.

Graves remembers when GM employed 25,000 in Canada and that is now down to about 8,000 workers, shrinking to barely more than 5,000 when Oshawa closes.

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