‘Deeply disappointed’: Unifor president Jerry Dias reacts after GM meeting

Daniel Fowler
January 11, 2019

The head of Canada's auto union blasted General Motors for pushing ahead with plans to phase out work at its Oshawa, Ontario, assembly plant despite calls by workers and politicians in Canada to find a new vehicle to build there.

The options suggested by the union, including extending the life of the Chevy Impala and Cadillac XTS now produced at the plant or shifting production slated for Mexico to the plant, are not economic, said David Paterson, vice president of corporate affairs at GM Canada.

After he returned from the meeting with GM, Dias told reporters in a press conference in Windsor, Ontario, that the union was looking at its legal options regarding whether the Detroit company violated the labor contract.

Dias said the US$22-million annual salary of company CEO Mary Barra is greater than the entire payroll of one assembly plant in Mexico. "We're asking Canadians and governments at all levels to make it clear to GM that we will hold them accountable should they decide to inflict this damage by closing a top-quality and productive plant for no other reason than corporate greed".

There has been no word on if the sit-in will evolve into a complete walk-out.

The meeting came after GM's "accelerated transformation" announcement on November 26, 2018, which would see the Oshawa plant close in 2019.

GM said in a letter to Dias that it had already considered several proposals including those the union raised at the meeting. The union has planned a rally in Windsor, Ont. Friday to coincide with a GM investor update.

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"We are not backing down... we're not going anywhere", he said.

Dias previously promised "one hell of a fight" to prevent the Oshawa plant's closure.

"We understand our union's frustration but need to now work together to deliver supports, transition and training for our employees for new opportunities over the coming year".

While Unifor vowed it will not advocate for a boycott of GM products, the union leader believes Canadian auto buyers are already steering away following the Oshawa plant announcement.

"I'm furious right now", Dias added.

Dias said the meeting further confirmed for him how GM's executives based the plant closure decisions exclusively on "corporate greed" by moving production to Mexico where he said the company's employee wages are roughly $2 per hour. The union has also emphasized the many spin-off jobs that depend on the Oshawa plant and the wider impacts of its closure on the economy.

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