GM Canada and union announce deal to keep Oshawa plant operating

General Motors Canada President Travis Hester and Unifor National President Jerry Dias take part in a press conference in Toronto

The U.S. -based automaker has announced that, rather than shutter the Oshawa plant completely, as had been planned, it will now invest $170 million to transition the facility from manufacturing vehicles to stamping, sub-assembly and autonomous vehicle testing.

Unifor, which represents autoworkers at GM Canada mounted a nationwide campaign to lobby politicians and GM to save the 2,500 jobs in Oshawa.

Unifor Canada President Jerry Dias says the announcement is something, but no reason to celebrate.

It was previously announced in late November 2018 the plant would be closing by the end of 2019, with GM stating its intentions to no longer manufacture vehicles in the City of Oshawa.

"So what GM is doing here today is they are making a long-term commitment to Oshawa cause with every vehicle that we start to perform the aftermarket work, it's a 10-year commitment", Dias said.

"We're now so much more than a vehicle manufacturing facility".

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A joint statement from GM Canada and Unifor said the company will offer relocations to other facilities in Ontario for those affected, as well as "enhanced retirement packages" to 1,300 eligible employees.

Production at the Oshawa Assembly Plant is scheduled to end in December 2019, which would leave almost 3,000 workers without jobs. "Putting a test track in gives those jobs more security ... but also potentially a real possibility of more jobs on the intellectual side of the industry".

Todd Smith, Ontario's Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, called the announcement "good news for the City of Oshawa and all of Durham". A "Job Action Centre" will be established in June to help people find jobs outside of GM once the plant closes in December 2019; the centre is jointly supported by GM, Unifor and the Ontario government.

The new business will retain 300 Oshawa jobs with the potential to grow and generate significant additional jobs in the coming years, as the business attracts new customers.

Smith said the government has been in contact with GM the entire time, and notes the company will add hundreds of more jobs at its Markham facility.

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