Canadian GM workers in Oshawa walk out in protest of plant closure

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday expressed his “deep disappointment” in General Motors’ decision to close its Oshawa plant, a move Canadian officials only learned about on Sunday and which led workers to walk off the job on Monday. GM said the closure affects a total of 2,973 assembly line jobs. GM’s total employment in Canada is 8,150 direct jobs.

Workers in the Unifor trade union walked out of the Oshawa plant “in protest,” ahead of a meeting with GM about the announcement, a union spokeswoman said.

“I’ve moved my family twice for this company and they do this to me,” a tearful worker told CBC TV as he left the plant.

Currently, the Oshawa plant builds the Cadillac XTS and Chevy Impala sedans. Under Unifor’s four-year contract signed in 2016, GM must give the union a year’s notice before closing the plant. The automaker intends to close the plant in December, 2019. A 2015 study commissioned by Unifor, which represents GM employees, estimated that shutting the plant would eliminate 4,100 direct jobs and reduce Ontario’s gross domestic product by C$1.1 billion.

But Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, said the move amounts to a breach of the automaker’s contract with its employees. “We have a collective agreement that says they’re not closing any of our facilities … so we will do anything by any means to make sure that they live up to their word,” Dias said at a news conference.

Dias said the contract between Unifor and the company forbids GM from closing any of its Canadian plants during the contract period, which ends in September 2020.

“They are not closing our damn plant without one hell of a fight.”