General Motors Forges Ahead With Closing Oshawa Plant, So Workers Stage Sit-In Protests

Oshawa Assembly Plant
General Motors’ Oshawa plant. [Photo: General Motors]

Tensions mount between GM and Unifor, the union for Oshawa assembly plant’s workers.

Workers at General Motors’ Oshawa assembly plant in Ontario, Canada staged a sit-down protest Wednesday morning, halting production at the plant for about two hours. The idea was to convince GM to build a new vehicle at the plant, rather than ‘unallocate’ its current production, effectively shuttering the plant later this year. Despite efforts by Unifor, the union representing workers at the Oshawa plant, GM is moving ahead with its plans. As such, the Oshawa plant will still close by the end of 2019, unless it strikes an alternative deal with the union to keep it open.

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On Tuesday night, production was halted for nearly five hours after workers put down their tools, again in protest over the decision. Reuters reports, “Workers are now returning to the line with production expected to resume shortly,” said Unifor spokesperson Kathleen O’Keefe. It’s unclear at this point whether the second shift will also interrupt production, or what impact the sit-in had on the first shift’s production output.

“We understand our union’s frustration, but need to now work together to deliver supports, transition and training for our employees,” GM Canada Vice President for Corporate & Environmental Affairs David Paterson said. Unifor posted a video Tuesday of alarms sounded after production halted at the Oshawa plant:

GM’s $6 billion restructuring plan

The Oshawa plant produces the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS sedans, as well as completes final assembly for the previous-generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. It’s not the only plant on track to close, however. Other GM assembly plants are also on the chopping block, including:

  • Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly (produces Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Volt and Impala, and Cadillac CT6)
  • Lordstown Assembly (produces Chevrolet Cruze)
  • Warren Transmission Operations (builds transmissions for several GM models)
  • Baltimore Operations (builds full-size pickup transmissions)

The Oshawa closure alone affects 2,973 assembly line jobs. In total, General Motors employs 8,150 people in Canada. The fate of U.S. assembly plants hinges upon further talks with the UAW (United Auto Workers) union. According to the Reuters report, GM CEO Mary Barra will “keep an open mind” about the Lordstown plant closure.

Global News Canada talked to some of the affected workers at Oshawa following Tuesday’s protect. Greg Moffatt, the plant chair reprenting Unifor workers, talked to reporters Tuesday evening. “I can send General Motors a message right now: We’re not going to lay down. We’re proud people, we’re proud Canadians, and I believe Canadians and taxpayers are behind the workers in the city of Oshawa.”