GM to idle Oshawa factory due to UAW strike, union says

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General Motors will idle all vehicle production at an assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario, beginning Friday, due to the UAW strike against the automaker in the United States, union officials in Canada said.

Workers in Oshawa complete final assembly of previous-model Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks. They also assemble the Chevrolet Impala on a separate line.

Colin James, president of Unifor Local 222, which represents workers in Oshawa, told Automotive News Canada on Thursday that nearly all of the plant’s 2,600 workers will be temporarily laid off by week’s end. A few unionized maintenance members will still report to work, he said.

James said once production at Oshawa stops on Friday, another 1,700 members of Unifor Local 222 at nearby suppliers will be temporarily laid off.

“As soon as General Motors goes down, it impacts them right away,” he said. “They will be laid off at the same time.”

GM on Wednesday temporarily laid off about 1,200 workers who assemble the trucks, which are shipped to Oshawa from a plant in Indiana. The Ontario factory on Tuesday ran out of parts for the pickups due to the UAW walkout.

“We anticipated there would be an impact because of the strike,” David Paterson, a spokesman for General Motors Canada, said Wednesday.

GM Canada’s Jennifer Wright on Thursday wouldn’t comment further except to say that about half of the production at the Oshawa assembly plant has been affected by the UAW strike. “Operations at CAMI and St. Catharines remain unimpacted at this time and we continue to monitor the situation,” Wright said in an email.

All vehicle assembly at Oshawa will cease by the end of 2019 as part of restructuring moves announced by GM last year. About 300 jobs will be saved as the plant is converted to make stampings and parts. The automaker is spending $170 million to transform the plant into a parts manufacturing hub and installing a 55-acre test track for autonomous and other advanced technology vehicles.

James said Local 222 fully supports the UAW strike amid negotiations for a new wage and benefit contract.

“It’s about workers, regardless of which country you’re in, and the fight to improve their livelihoods,” he said. “It really hits home. Oshawa at one time had 23,000 members and I’ve watched it slowly dwindle. I don’t want to see that happen in any other plant or to any other worker.”

In Windsor, Ontario, Unifor Local 444 President David Cassidy said about 80 drivers for Martin Transport Systems, a just-in-time logistics company that services GM, have been temporarily laid off.

Cassidy and members of Unifor Local 444 on Wednesday delivered donuts to striking GM workers at the company’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, which is also slated for closure at the end of the year.

“They’re not making much headway right now,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy said Unifor Local 195 in Windsor represents hundreds of workers in the supply chain that feeds GM in the United States. Local 195 President Emile Nabbout couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The strike also lead to an immediate halt in production of Buick, GMC, Cadillac and Chevrolet models assembled in the U.S. for sale in Canada. They include the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra — the automaker’s top-selling vehicles in Canada — both of which are built in Flint, Mich. GM Canada’s Oshawa assembly plant only builds the outgoing models of those two trucks. Other U.S. vehicle production affected by the strike includes the Buick Enclave and Chevy Traverse, assembled in Lansing, Mich.

One of the most popular GM vehicles in Canada, the Chevrolet Equinox, is assembled in Ingersoll, Ontario.

Wright previously told Automotive News Canada that the automaker’s Canadian dealer network has not yet been affected by the strike.

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