Oshawa Says They Won’t Be Flint–Your Intransigence is Showing

General Motors’ Oshawa, Ontario assembly plant is bleeding vehicles and in danger of closing, but the city and its workers aren’t going down without a fight.

GM employees, their union, and local government representatives want a new mandate to produce vehicles beyond 2017, invoking images of Flint, Michigan in their battle with the automaker. The recent announcement of 700 new provincewide engineering jobs doesn’t cut it, they say.

To them, GM’s silence reeks of an exit strategy.

Because it’s 2016, a hashtag is one of the weapons in the duffel bag. Unifor Local 222, the union representing GM employees in Oshawa, launched a #GMOshawaMatters Twitter campaign this morning, supported by the city’s mayor and member of provincial parliament.

Oshawa’s dilemma is simple: all of its vehicles could easily be assembled somewhere else. Chevrolet Camaro production went Stateside last year, and production of the Buick Regal, Chevy Impala and Equinox and Cadillac XTS could easily go elsewhere.

As the birthplace of GM’s Canadian manufacturing presence, Oshawa’s economy depends on the plant’s existence. Unifor 222 president told the assembled media, “We don’t want GM to turn Oshawa into another Flint, Michigan,” referring to the economic hit that city took after GM closed plants in the 1980s.

With bargaining talks scheduled later this summer, Unifor president Jerry Dias has said his members are prepared to strike.

Greg Moffat, head of the bargaining team, said GM plans to move assembly of the next-generation Regal to China. The Equinox could go to the Ingersoll, Ontario plant, he added, and the Impala is already built in Detroit. That leaves the slow-selling XTS, which wouldn’t be enough “for one shift,” Moffat said.

The protests led GM Canada president Steve Carlisle to weigh in on the thorny issue. Pledging his support for innovation and a continued assembly presence, Carlisle’s remarks didn’t amount to much more than platitudes. He implicitly called for the company’s partners to play nice, but not much else.

“As much as some would like to simplify that task, there is no one factor that goes into winning auto assembly investments,” Carlisle stated on GM Canada’s webpage. “Each investment is founded upon a complex business case that considers people, plants, policy, partners and competitive economics.”

Don’t expect much sound sleep in Oshawa tonight after that remark.

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