Windsor

GM dealerships concerned for potential boycott from customers

Unifor's national president warned General Motors that customers might turn their back to the company after the Oshawa decision. But for GM's vice president of corporate affairs, a boycott doesn't make sense since the company still maintains a presence in Canada.

General Motors says dealerships have jobs available, but Unifor Local 222 says there aren't enough

According to Unifor Local 222's president, more than 20,000 jobs are expected to disappear after the closure of the General Motors plant in Oshawa. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

A boycott of General Motors (GM) products doesn't make sense, according to David Paterson, GM's vice president of corporate affairs.

That's because the company still maintains a presence in Canada, he said.

"We have our CAMI manufacturing facility and we have our St. Catharines manufacturing facility. It wouldn't make any sense for anyone to call for people to not buy our products ... because that's what creates the jobs in the CAMI facility and the St. Catharines facility."

However, dealerships across Ontario are concerned some customers may still turn their back.

In late November, GM announced it will be closing five plants total in Canada and the U.S. in 2019. The company said it planned to shift some of its focus to autonomous and electric vehicle development.

On Thursday, Unifor national president Jerry Dias held a news conference and said it was time for GM to solidify its footprint in Canada. In his address, he said a campaign has been launched to get GM's attention and union members are not backing down.

David Paterson, vice president of corporate affairs for General Motors, says the company is doing everything it can to take care of its workers. (Sylvia Thomson/CBC News)

According to Paterson, GM dealerships "in the Oshawa area and across the GTA" are going the extra mile, offering "good-paying" jobs to those affected by the Oshawa plant closure. Some of those jobs are technician jobs.

"Who better to service the vehicles than the people that have built them? [The dealerships] will pay for the training. And these are $100,000 a year jobs," said Paterson, adding GM has recruited four community colleges in the Durham region to train workers.

"Just yesterday, I had another employer contact me from the GTA that has 900 open jobs for the kind of skill-set that we have in the Oshawa factory."

But for Colin James, president of Unifor Local 222 which represents Oshawa's GM workers, the auto giant hasn't done anything to get that message across.

"We are not aware of any technician jobs that are available in that field. Our members have been very clear that there is no jobs," said James.

"Their sales are down, so obviously, there would be no positions available."

Colin James, president of Unifor Local 222, says closing GM's Oshawa plant is not an option. (Unifor Local 222)

Paterson said one of the prospective employers that came to GM after the closure announcement is Ontario Power Generation (OPG). But according to James, there are not enough jobs available to effectively support the community.

"We have been in contact with OPG and they've made it quite clear there aren't 2,500 jobs available. There are no jobs available that they have out there right now — and they're not sure where this information is coming from."

CBC News contacted representatives from two dealerships in the Windsor-Essex region, who said GM requested they not participate in an interview.

Both representatives said they are keeping an eye on the situation and are concerned that a potential boycott may affect jobs at their dealership.

About the Author

Sanjay Maru is a reporter at CBC Windsor. Email him at sanjay.maru@cbc.ca.

with files from CBC News

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