To our members in Unifor and the community of Oshawa: we’re not done yet, not by a long shot.
This is a difficult week for the men and women who have built lives around working at General Motors assembly and those who work to supply the plant. The impact has been widespread, with some 20,000 jobs lost. Coming just a week before Christmas, the timing is especially difficult.
There is no candy coating what is happening this week as the last GM truck rolls off the line. No one is in a mood to commemorate this week, but the community needs to know that Unifor and its members are not going anywhere.
When GM announced a year ago its plans to shut down its plant in Oshawa after a century of operation, the members, Unifor and the community snapped into action. We received support far and wide, including from Sting and the cast of The Last Ship musical, who saw the link between the story they were telling on stage and what was happening in Oshawa.
We all persevered, despite Premier Doug Ford throwing in the towel at the first bell. The ending of assembly work this week is not only a black eye for GM, but also for Ford and all government officials who failed to step up when they were needed most.
For months, we rallied workers and the community, and never stopped talking to the company. The community showed its dedication to keeping GM in Oshawa. Their support made the difference then, and will make the difference going forward.
The result was a $170 million-dollar investment announced last spring that kept part of the plant open. Assembly is ending this week, but the plant is not shutting down.
This is vital. The integrity of the plant remains intact. It’s a parts manufacturing operation now with the capacity to return to auto assembly.
In 2020, we open the next round of contract talks with the Detroit Three automakers, including GM.
For General Motors, there can be no settlement without investments in Canada. The company might as well get used to that idea now, because our determination to return assembly to Oshawa has not wavered, not one iota.
Oshawa is the birthplace of General Motors in Canada. Auto production has a long and proud history in the community dating back more than a century. The transition of the Oshawa operations from making buggies to producing cars signaled the birth of the industrial age in Canada. Such a legacy will not be forgotten, or disrespected.
In recent weeks, GM has shown a willingness to invest in its U.S. plants following the settlement of its contract talks there earlier this year. It needs to be prepared to do the same in Canada in 2020 – because the need for that investment is indisputable.
In the coming years and decades, we will see a transformation in the auto industry as more electric and hybrid vehicles come to market. This promises to be as profound a change as the move from buggies to gas-powered vehicles was a century ago.
Building those vehicles will require a highly skilled and award-winning workforce – just like Unifor’s Oshawa members currently going through the toughest week of their lives.
These workers were a vital part of GM’s growth and recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, and have earned the right to be part of GM’s future.