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Nov 27, 2018

Dias says he'd shut down every GM plant to save Oshawa jobs

Unifor 'not walking away from this': Dias says GM has means to keep Oshawa plant open


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The head of the union representing General Motors Co. workers in Oshawa, Ont. says he’s ready to do whatever it takes to save jobs amid the U.S. automaker’s global reorganization – even if it means mass walkouts in U.S. and Canadian plants.

Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, said in an interview with BNN Bloomberg’s Greg Bonnell that he sees two ways to prevent the closure of GM’s assembly plant in Oshawa.

“Number one, Canada says they’ve had enough and they’re going to start slapping expensive tariffs on Mexican imported vehicles,” Dias said Monday afternoon, just hours after GM unveiled its restructuring plan.

“And two, I'm meeting with the head of the [United Automobile Workers] next Wednesday. If I had my way, we’d shut down every General Motors manufacturing plant in Canada and the United States until they got the message. That’s how I would deal with it.”

GM announced Monday that it has no plans to produce vehicles in Oshawa after December 2019. The company said five facilities in North America, including the Oshawa plant, are on the chopping block as part of a sweeping global restructuring that will transform its product line as it refocuses on electric and autonomous vehicles. The plan will save the company US$6 billion by 2020, GM said.

The automaker also plans to cut salaried and salaried contract staff by 15 per cent, or about 14,000 people in North America, which includes 25 per cent fewer executives. Oshawa’s plant currently employs about 3,000 workers.

Dias said Unifor will do whatever it takes to push GM to change its decision.

“General Motors committed to us in September 2016 that there would not be a plant closure during the life of this agreement, and we fully intend on making sure they keep their word,” he said, referring to the agreement that GM and Unifor struck about two years ago.

Dias added that auto workers who will be affected by GM’s restructuring need leadership from Canada’s politicians.

“The time of politicians that say they’re here for the people … that’s not going to fly,” Dias said.

“They want their politicians to stand up and say, ‘We’re supporting you and we’ll do everything we can to preserve your job.’ People don’t want another five weeks of EI – they want their good-paying manufacturing jobs.”