It's not clear how many of the 2,500 employees at the Oshawa assembly facility will lose their jobs under the sweeping strategy, which GM says aims to lower carbon emissions and prepare for a future of electric and autonomous vehicles.
Hundreds of GM workers walk off the job in Oshawa
Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, blasted GM's move, which he says violates its agreement with workers. He praised those who work at the plant, which is about 60 kilometres east of Toronto.
Unifor, which represents the hourly workers, said Sunday that it does not have complete details of the announcement but has been informed that, as of now, there is no product allocated to the Oshawa Assembly Plant past December 2019.
Dias said the union is sick of GM outsourcing Canadian work to Mexico and will spend the next year fighting the planned closure and will do whatever it takes to keep the jobs in Oshawa. He suggested the Canadian government could implement tariffs on Mexican-made vehicles.
When GM confirmed the closure Monday, it said the company is exploring options to retool the facility. This means they could close or they could get different vehicles to build.
Conservative MP Erin OToole, who represents the riding of Durham, said on Twitter that, from the calls I have been making tonight, it appears these reports about an end to vehicle assembly in Oshawa are true.
Mary Barra, GM's chief executive officer, said from Detroit that the action to transform its product line and manufacturing process will save the company an estimated $6 billion US by the end of 2020.
"This industry is changing very rapidly when you look at all of the transformative technology — be it propulsion, autonomous driving, connectivity sharing — and we want to make sure we're well positioned," she said.
My entire family has worked at General Motors, said Henry. My dad was a foreman in the plant. I have two brothers in the plant. My sister worked there in university. I worked there as a contractor.
The plan will put GM in a "more agile, resilient and profitable" position for long-term success, she said.
The reduction includes 8,100 white-collar workers, Barra said, some of whom will take buyouts, while others will be laid off amid a 15 per cent cut of staff.
Nothing Ontario can do, premier saysUnifor said Monday it was told no vehicles are set to be assembled at the facility past December 2019.
Earlier, Premier Doug Ford called the news "absolutely devastating" during a fiery question period at Queen's Park.
Ford spoke to senior officials of GM Canada on Sunday and said he was told a plan to eliminate production was already underway.
During the conversation, Ford said he asked if there was anything the province could do to prevent the shutdown. He claims the automaker told him "that ship has already left the dock" and that the facility will be closed regardless of government intervention.
The province will return to a system similar to that in place before 2015, with markups of $1.25 per litre applied to all beer sold in Alberta by producers of more than 50,000 hectolitres per year. Smaller brewers, regardless of province of origin, are able to apply for markups of between 10 and 60 cents per litre.
But Barra revealed during a morning news conference in Detroit that GM would be terminating production at the Oshawa assembly plant, along with four other complexes in the U.S. and at more facilities outside North America that will be announced at a later date.
"The policy will be dealing with clothing only in the light of perspiration on machines and things like that. It's not going to be gender specific or dealing with any specific kind of clothing. It will be driven by what's best for health and safety in the gym," Carleton said.
The U.S. assembly plants affected are in Michigan and Ohio, as well as transmission factories in Maryland and Michigan.
"This industry is changing very rapidly and we want to make sure we're well positioned," Barra told reporters, noting the automaker will be focusing on its future through investment in autonomous and electric vehicles.
GM has yet to set a timetable for the production halt at the Oshawa plant but confirmed it will be sometime in 2019. Further, the vehicles produced there won't be sold in the U.S. after next year.
Workers inside the plant stopped production shortly before 9 a.m. ET and set up a picket line outside an entrance gate. They called GM's plan a "slap in the face."
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Zachary Way, a new hire at the plant, was among those who walked off the production line in protest and was waiting to hear more from the union.
Way told CBC News that the company has told him "basically nothing" at this point, although he's already fearing the worst. If he is laid off, "it'll be bad," he said.
Way's father and brother also work at the Oshawa plant, which he likened to the heart of the city. If it shuts down, Way said, he's not sure how Oshawa will recover. He likened an empty plant to an "open wound."
Watch workers react to GM's plans to close the Oshawa facility in 2019 as part of a global restructuring plan:
First, for those who work in the auto industry, I want you to know that today's news has nothing to do with the quality of the work you do. I will put the highly trained, professional autoworkers in Oshawa, or anywhere else in Ontario, up against anybody else in the world. It is disappointing that GM failed to see and build upon this competitive advantage. While the company is entitled to make its own business decisions, I am confident that history will prove them wrong.
The Oshawa plant, where GM Canada has its headquarters, produces the Chevrolet Impala and the Cadillac XTS cars, the majority of which are shipped south of the border. It also does the final assembly of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks.
The complex is one of three GM manufacturing facilities in Ontario, along with St. Catharines and Ingersoll.
The plant was headed for closure in June this year amid a slump in sales of passenger cars in North America, and specifically the U.S., for the two cars built in Oshawa.
In late 2017, GM Canada reported a 17.2 per cent year-over-year drop in vehicle sales, while Canadian year-to-year sales were up 13.6 per cent thanks to strong numbers earlier that year.
Around the same time, the auto manufacturer restarted a truck assembly line and scaled back car production to address shifting American buyer preferences.
“We’re obviously very concerned with the reports and will be working very hard over the next few days to help the affected workers,” the official said, adding it is believed the decision is part of a broader restructuring that will touch GM operations across North America as GM seeks to move its vehicle line-up to more futuristic models, such as zero-emissions cars.
Then, GM ramped up its cost-cutting efforts last month by offering buyouts to thousands of white-collar workers with 12 or more years of service in both Canada and the U.S. The company has said it needs to be smaller to prepare for possible tougher times.
The assembly plant has formed the backbone of Oshawa's economy for more than 100 years. GM bought the plant in 1953 from McLaughlin Buicks, making it one of the biggest in the world.
An announcement will be made at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Oshawa letting the workers know. Sources close to the situation say that there will be negotiations between federal and provincial officials with General Motors as to the next steps in Oshawa.
Initially, Oshawa Mayor John Henry had hoped news of the closure was "just a rumour," but several hours after it made national headlines, he predicted "there's more to this than what we know."
Henry, who worked at the facility as a teen, claims a sombre mood is now blanketing the city because the economic ripple effect will send shockwaves beyond its workers and their families.
"This isn't just about building cars," he told CBC News on Monday, noting he had not yet spoken to anyone from GM.
Dozens of auto-parts businesses, as well as the companies that supply them, will also be affected. A wide array of local businesses, such as restaurants and retailers in Oshawa, could also feel the effects of the shutdown.
GM workers have been good for Oshawa, Henry noted, raising millions of dollars for charity like the local United Way, even during hard economic times.
"It's going to change the spending habits in this community," he said, adding the effects will be felt instantly especially during the holiday season.
"We thought with the recent investments that General Motors had made, that this plant was going to continue to produce vehicles for a long period of time."
Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said the move is "absolutely shameful" and that GM should treat its workers better.
"General Motors should be disgusted on how they're rewarding these members," Buckley told CBC News.
For every job at the assembly plant, he explains, an additional nine jobs are created in the community.
Words cannot fully describe the anxiety that my community is feeling at this moment.- MPP Jennifer FrenchOshawa NDP MPP Jennifer French also decried the plan, calling it a "callous decision that must be fought."