Workers at GM's Oshawa facility hold work stoppage over planned closure

A sign outside Oshawa's General Motors car assembly plant is shown in Oshawa on Sept.17 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS  Michelle Siu

A sign outside Oshawa's General Motors car assembly plant is shown in Oshawa on Sept.17 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS Michelle Siu

However, In a statement signed by GM Canada president Travis Hester and General Motors VP of manufacturing and labour relations Gerald Johnson, the company said the proposals brought to them by Unifor would result in increased costs and would harm the company's competitive position.

"We're going to continue to have discussions with them about solutions", Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, the union that represents workers at the plant, said after meeting with GM officials at the No. 1 USA automaker's Detroit headquarters.

Workers also staged a protest on the Tuesday afternoon shift, then walked off the job, after they got word that GM had not accepted the union's proposals to save the factory during a meeting with labor leaders.

Dias said the US$22-million annual salary of company CEO Mary Barra is greater than the entire payroll of one assembly plant in Mexico.

GM has also not allocated new products for four USA plants, raising the possibility of closure and the elimination of a total of about 15,000 jobs in North America.

GM said in a letter to Dias that it had already considered several proposals including those the union raised at the meeting.

"I'm furious right now", Dias added.

The president of the union representing Canadian autoworkers says his members don't have the same government support that American autoworkers enjoy in their efforts to convince General Motors to keep plants from shutting down.

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When asked whether he foresees any threat by executives of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles pulling a similar move with the Windsor Assembly Plant - which employs 6,000 workers locally - Chiodo said there are "no major concerns" pointing to a significant difference historically in the union's dealings with the two automakers.

The company acknowledged the frustration that led to the work stoppages, but urged the union to instead work with the company on timing and transition plans for the approximately 2,600 unionized workers who are losing their jobs.

Since GM's announcement, Unifor has launched an extensive public relations campaign, demanding GM save the Oshawa plant.

Unifor has refused to consider negotiations on a shutdown of Oshawa.

On Tuesday night, truck assembly stopped completely for almost five hours, Unifor said. The union has planned a rally in Windsor, Ont. Friday to coincide with a GM investor update.

GM workers responded by walking off the job.

Dias says the fight to keep the plant open is not over, and the union may explore legal avenues related to contract agreements with the company.

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