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GM, Unifor put positive spin on Oshawa plant transformation


May 8, 2019  


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Hundreds of jobs have been saved at an Oshawa, Ont. General Motors plant as the company invests $170 million to transform the facility.

GM Canada and Unifor announced that the current facility, which manufacturers several vehicles, will transition to stamping and sub-assembly. The company told CTV News that the move is expected to save 300 of the 2,600 jobs that will be affected by the ceasing of vehicle production at the facility by the end of 2019.

“GM plans to be one of Oshawa’s leading companies and employers for many decades to come,” hailed GM Canada president Travis Hester at a news conference Wednesday.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias said one of the key aspects of the announcement is “the first ever” aftermarket facility for GM.

“After they finish production, for 10 years you have to provide aftermarket parts. So what GM is doing here today is they are making a long-term commitment to Oshawa cause with every vehicle that we start to perform the aftermarket work, it’s a 10-year commitment,” Dias said.

Hester said their current plan would see the plant handle 50 aftermarket component sets. These parts can include everything from doors and roofs, to quarter panelling and trunks.

GM is also planning to transform part of the property at the Oshawa plant into a test track for autonomous vehicles and advanced technology vehicles.

“We’re now so much more than a vehicle manufacturing facility. We’re integrated into the future of our business, the future of our development, and into an entire business model for aftermarket parts and component sets that will sustain us for at least 10 years for every product we apply there. It’s a very sustainable business model,” Hester said.

In November, GM announced it was ceasing production at the Oshawa plant by the end of 2019 – a decision that put thousands of jobs in jeopardy.

Dias said that, while GM’s commitment right now is only for 300 jobs, that is likely to expand in the future.

“This announcement, though it might not have a lot of jobs as we sit here today in May, there’s going to be a heck of a lot more in December. There will be more next year. There will be more the year after as we continue to attract work.”

But Dias couldn’t call Wednesday’s announcement a true triumph because the future for thousands of families is still uncertain.

“I can’t say to people, ‘just hold on because I have a solution for you next week’ because that would be disingenuous. I don’t have any commitment from General Motors besides what we’re talking about today,” he said.

Hester says 50 per cent of GM employees and Unifor members will likely take retirement packages. Details of what the retirement package will include are expected to be released on Thursday. General Motors is also expected to reveal how many potential transfer jobs will be available to employees at the Oshawa plant.

Minister of Innovation, Science & Economic Development Navdeep Bains said in a statement that the federal government is encouraged by GM’s announcement.

“Just yesterday, Oshawa’s autoworkers were facing a completely uncertain future. Today, GM has committed to providing work for hundreds of them at the plant and to supporting the others, and we want to see it through,” the statement reads.

Todd Smith, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, called the announcement “good news for the City of Oshawa and all of Durham.”

“We are glad this historic site will continue to be a hub for vehicle parts manufacturing, technological innovation and regional economic growth,” Smith said in a statement.

Both Hester and Dias thanked the federal and provincial government for their assistance over the last few months. However, Hester said the $170-million investment is all money being put forward by General Motors, and does not consist of any government assistance.

It’s not yet clear when the transformation of the Oshawa plant will begin.

(CTV News/Canadian Press)


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