General Motors Co. is promising to respond by Jan. 7, to Unifor, the Canadian union that represents GM workers, which has laid out proposals that would maintain production at an assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario, GM is preparing to shutter permanently.
Unifor President Jerry Dias met with senior GM officials in Detroit Thursday to make the case that the Ontario plant should be kept open. “The meeting today was frustrating,” said Dias at a press conference in Windsor on the Canadian side of the Detroit River.
“But in the meeting today, General Motors did not unilaterally slam the door either,” Dias said during the press conference. “They announced that they would listen to our proposals and they would get back to us by the 7th of January whether or not they will work with us to find a solution.”
The date is significant because it comes just before GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra and other GM executives are scheduled to host a webcast for analysts and investors.
(UAW contract talks to determine fate of Lordstown plant. Click Here for the story.)
Last month, as she announced the decision to idle plants in the U.S., Barra promised more details on her plans to remake the company so it can compete more effectively in the future.
While Barra’s restructuring plan has been praised by Wall Street and credit rating agencies, it has triggered a substantial political backlash in both Canada and the United States, where figures from both sides of the country’s cavernous political divide in the U.S. ranging from President Donald Trump to Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, a liberal Democrat who could wind up opposing Trump in 2020 blasted GM’s decision.
The United Auto Workers and its political allies on Capitol Hill also have pounced on GM’s stock buy backs during the past three years, which now total $10.6 billion, as a clear indication that GM’s job cuts and proposed plant closures have nothing to do with conserving.
“Over the past weeks, General Motors has tried to tell the American people that their decision to close plants in Michigan and Ohio, lay off thousands of workers, and ship jobs overseas was necessary in order to keep their company profitable. This could not be further from the truth,” the UAW said on its website this week.
“GM has chosen to turn its back on American workers, while handing $25 billion to Wall Street bankers and wealthy shareholders in the form of stock buybacks and dividends,” the UAW added.
(Click Here for more about Senators pressuring GM to halt $14B stock buyback plan. .)
Dias also said he raised the company’s fundamental hypocrisy in its approach to community relations.
Unifor, according to the Canadian Press, has apparently offered a number of different approaches to maintaining production in Oshawa, including keeping truck production there, or moving production of new vehicles now scheduled for Mexico to Canada or even extending the life of some of the models such as the Chevrolet Impala, which are now built in the Canadian factory.
Meanwhile, Unifor and the UAW have launched a letter-writing campaign among its members and allies to pressure on GM. In addition, Unifor is also launching a media campaign across Canada, attacking GM, and has threatened to launch a boycott of GM products if the company pulls out of Oshawa.
In a news release this week, GM Canada said it was looking to counter some of the claims of the union, it insisted it remains “committed to Canada and we are not going anywhere.” The company said it still has a workforce of more than 5,000 in Canada and has also committed millions of dollars to retrain and help Oshawa workers transition to new jobs.
The UAW and Unifor have also said they were blindsided by Barra’s announcement even though GM has been cutting back in production in the targeted plants in Oshawa, Lordstown and Detroit-Hamtramck, for months as sales of passenger cars have dropped.
(To see more about Mary Barra’s radical reshaping of General Motors, Click Here.)
Since then, GM officials amended Barra’s original announcement, insisting that any displaced workers will be moved to other jobs within the company. Barra also noted she would remain “open-minded” during her discussions with political and union leaders about the plants.