General Motors Canada and Unifor have announced a plan to convert elements of the Oshawa Assembly plant into an arts-making operation, saving some 300 manufacturing jobs, and vehicle test center for autonomous and advanced vehicles.
The “Transformation Agreement” between GM and Unifor, the union representing Canadian autoworkers, apparently will end the sometime bitter dispute that began in November 2018 when GM announced plans to shutter the Oshawa plant permanently, ending more than 100 years of car making on the site just outside Toronto.
The dispute about Oshawa led a brief sit-down strike inside the factory earlier this year and Unifor attacking GM for abandoning Canada through a series of ads including one that ran on the highly rated Canadian telecast of the Super Bowl. GM countered the brief strike and the ads with lawsuits.
“By maintaining a footprint in Oshawa, and keeping the plant intact, we save hundreds of jobs and this gives us the ability to build and create new jobs in the future. We are in a much better position than we were five months ago when the plant was closing,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National president, who attacked GM on Twitter about the shutdown and for reneging on an earlier deal to keep the plant open.
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GM, meanwhile, pointed to its commitment to maintain operations in Canada, a not insubstantial market where it had been losing ground during the dispute with Unifor.
“This transformation plan is very significant as it positions Oshawa for a sustainable future,” said GM Canada President and Managing Director Travis Hester. “This agreement maximizes the support for our people and their families, and further secures Oshawa as a key in developing vehicles of the future at our new test track.”
The agreement between GM and Unifor calls for the automaker to invest in excess of C$170 million to support a transition of operations at the plant from vehicle assembly to one focused on stamping, related sub-assembly, and other miscellaneous activities for GM and other auto industry customers.
GM also will convert part of the Oshawa Plant property into a test track for autonomous and advanced technology vehicles – further expanding the capability of GM’s Canadian Technical Centre (CTC) in Ontario.
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The new business will retain 300 Oshawa jobs with the potential to grow and generate significant additional jobs in the coming years, as the business attracts new customers. About 1,400 Oshawa workers will face displacement as the plants phases out operation.
GM Canada will offer special relocations to an unspecified number of Oshawa employees for jobs at some of its other Ontario operations. It also will offer enhanced retirement packages to retirement-eligible Oshawa Assembly employees including vouchers toward the purchase of new GM vehicles, a benefit that will support both retiring employees and GM dealerships in Durham Region and surrounding areas.
As part of the transition plan for other GM Oshawa Assembly employees. GM will offer retraining and financial support for all qualified Oshawa Assembly hourly employees seeking new employment.
A “Jobs Action Centre” will be opened in June 2019, in Oshawa to enable employees to plan now for future career opportunities outside GM following the end of Oshawa vehicle production in December 2019.
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GM also intends to donate the three-acre Fenelon Park and the 87-acre McLaughlin Bay wildlife preserve to the City of Oshawa for the permanent benefit of all its citizens.