General Motors is winding down production at its Oshawa assembly plant as an era of vehicle production for the southern Ontario city prepares to come to a close.
Some of the roughly 2,600 direct employees are expected to produce the final vehicles today, though the company cautions the exact timeline could still shift.
The closure has been a year in the making.
GM announced in November 2018 it would effectively shut down the plant along with four others in the U.S. as part of a wider restructuring.
In May, the company committed $170 million to convert the plant to a stamping and sub-assembly operation and keep about 300 jobs, as well as convert part of the complex into an advanced technology test track.
The end of production will have a ripple effect among the workers and suppliers who rely on the plant, as well as the wider community in Oshawa.
“This place means a lot to me,” said Rob Osborne, a third-generation line worker at the facility.
“But it’s not just the plant itself. It’s the people. Knowing that I’m going to walk out and not see a lot of the people I worked with, that is hard to deal with,” he continued.
“We’ll deal with in our own way, I guess, and move on.”
‘I couldn’t sleep last night’
GM started producing cars in the city in 1918 and opened the Oshawa assembly plant in 1953. At its peak in the 1980s, it employed some 23,000 people, and could produce as many as 730,000 cars and trucks a year.
Rebecca Keetch is a fourth-generation worker who has been at the plant for 16 years. One of her great-grandfathers, both of her grandfathers, one grandmother and her mother were all employed by GM as well.
She went in for her last scheduled shift early Wednesday morning.
“I couldn’t sleep last night,” she told CBC News. “This is part of the fabric of our community. This is going to be a loss.”
Keetch said that more than any other emotion, she’s feeling angry today.
“A lot of people are calling this a sad day, but I think this is an outrageous day.
“I think it’s outrageous that GM is abandoning this community and they are doing this in a time of record profits in the billions of dollars.”
Keetch expects it to be an emotional day for workers now facing an uncertain future.
“I think there’s going to be people crying, and I think there’s going to be people laughing. I think there’s going to be a lot of hugs. Autoworkers are a pretty affectionate bunch,” she said, holding back tears.