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Unifor disappointed by government decision to sell GM share

TORONTO, Feb. 5, 2015 /CNW/ - Unifor expressed its disappointment that the Ontario government has sold its last shares in General Motors.

"We need to utilize every bit of leverage we can to confirm GM's manufacturing footprint in Ontario going forward," said Unifor National President, Jerry Dias.

With all the current concern regarding GM's future presence in Oshawa, the union is stressing that this is exactly the wrong moment for the provincial government to dispose of its equity stake.

"While the provincial government's decision is unhelpful, we remain confident that GM can have a strong future in Canada," said Dias.

The union stressed that GM's Ontario facilities benefit from many economic and operational advantages that make future investments very appealing – including top quality and productivity results, relatively low labour costs and a coming demographic transition that will see many senior workers retire.

During the 2009 economic crisis, the citizens of Ontario made an enormous contribution to the restructuring and survival of GM. "Workers made sacrifices. Retirees made sacrifices.  Dealers made sacrifices. Taxpayers made sacrifices," said Dias. "Government has a responsibility to ensure that Ontario receives maximum benefit from this successful restructuring." 

Unifor indicated it will continue to work closely with GM and the provincial and federal governments to confirm future investments and product allocations at GM's Canadian facilities.

"If Canada wants to have a robust auto manufacturing industry, our governments must play a role," said Dias. "We strongly urge the federal government to hold onto its shares."

International experience has shown that public minority stakes in major automakers can stabilize their presence in key producing jurisdictions.  For example, 20% of Volkswagen (one of the 3 largest automakers in the world) is owned by the state government in Lower Saxony, Germany, where many of its operations are located.  Volkswagen has not closed a major German factory since the end of the Second World War.  Other governments in Europe and Asia have also used equity investments in automakers to support domestic activity.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers, including 21,000 in the auto sector. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged. Unifor works to protect its members and play a leadership role in building thriving, safe workplaces and a strong economy so all workers in Canada have a good job, a decent standard of living and greater equality.