2,000 jobs cut as GM to close Oshawa plant

The Canadian Auto Workers union says General Motors is going ahead with plans to close its consolidated plant in Oshawa, Ont.
Jordan McLean attaches exhaust shields to a vehicle at the GM factory in Oshawa. The facility is not slated to be closed next year. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press )

The Canadian Auto Workers union says General Motors is going ahead with plans to close its consolidated plant in Oshawa, Ont.   

The union says it's been told the facility — the older part of the Oshawa car plant — will close by June 2013 and says that could mean 2,000 layoffs.   

President of CAW Local 222 president Chris Buckley says GM gave the union notice today.   

The plant produces the Chevrolet Impala and the Equinox. It was originally slated to be closed in 2008 before a series of extensions due to the popularity of those vehicles squeezed more years of life out of it.

GM also has a flex assembly plant in Oshawa that is getting a share of the production of the new Chevy Impala. That flex line currently employs 2,000 people and currently makes the Chevy Camaro, Buick Regal and soon, the Cadillac XTS. If Impala production moved there, it could add another 500 jobs, Buckley said.   

The Impala will also be built at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in Michigan. "What we find extremely troubling is as of today GM will still not tell us how many Impalas will be produced in Oshawa," Buckley said.

Starting in the fourth quarter of this year, GM's third shift at the consolidated plant will be removed, followed by an elimination of the second shift in the first quarter of next year. By June 2013, production will completely stop.

Gradual slowdown

GM is scaling back its overall operations in Canada as part of a North American restructuring begun two years ago under bankruptcy court protection. Part of that process was an $8-billion cash injection from the governments of Ontario and Ottawa for ownership stakes in the new GM, something the union was eager to discuss on Friday.

Buckley pressed governments to pressure the company to reconsider, and ask what the taxpayers had gotten for their investment.

Opposition parliamentarians were quick to agree. "It's one thing for the company to survive," NDP MP Peggy Nash said. "If the jobs don’t survive here in Canada, it’s not much good to Canadians."

Liberal MP John McKay wants Ottawa to review the terms of GM's original loan. "They haven’t actually paid back the loan at this point," he said. "They have declared dividends, they have sold off shares and … the poor taxpayers of Ontario and Canada are left holding the bag."

The streamlining as GM underwent bankruptcy proceedings cost tens of thousands of jobs at the company's Canadian and U.S. operations and the shutdown of several plants.

"Our members have done everything GM has asked us to do for quite some time all in the eyes of having jobs in the future," Buckley said. "What more can we do to ensure we have a future?"

"I am absolutely disgusted at GM's decision to close the plant," Buckley said. 

In Canada, GM has already closed a truck plant in Oshawa and a transmission factory in Windsor, Ont.   

GM Canada currently employs more than 10,000 people across the country. In its heyday, the automaker had more than twice that total and major operations in Oshawa, St. Catharines, Ont. and Windsor.

With files from CBC News