Unionized workers are protesting outside the entrances to General Motors headquarters in Oshawa against a decision by the company to close the plant later this year.
“Greedy Motors,” read one placard placed in a snowbank outside the plant. “Oshawa made GM,” read another.
Colin James, president of Unifor local 222, which represents workers at the plant, said the union has staged the protest on Wednesday in an attempt to get the company’s attention.
“We plan on staying here as long as it takes. We are trying to send a clear message to GM that the decision that they have made they cannot justify. It’s an award-winning plant,” he said.
“I believe today we will get some attention. We’re increasing awareness that here’s a company that’s making record profits. And now they’re turning their back on Canadians.”
GM has steadfastly refused to reconsider its decision to close the Oshawa Assembly Plant.
Union says closure violates collective agreement
James said workers are preventing vehicles from entering the headquarters at 1908 Colonel Sam Dr., but the protest is legal. The event, which began at 6:00 a.m., is expected to continue for hours.
The union has set up fire barrels and canopies to keep workers at the protest warm. Many protesters are also wearing rain coats.
James said the decision to close the plant at the end of the year means the company is violating a collective agreement, signed in 2016, that covers a period until September 2020.
“At a minimum, we expect General Motors to live up to that collective agreement,” he said.
James said the union has received letters, phone calls and email messages of support from hundreds of Canadians.
“Canadians are sending a message that: ‘If you want to sell here, you need to build here.”
As for the plant, located a distance away at 900 Park Rd South, it is running and the union is asking its members to continue to work, he added.
GM Canada says protest not affecting work
For its part, GM Canada said in a tweet that it considers the protest illegal and it does not condone blocking of road access, which it said affects third parties. It added that the protest is not affecting work because the company has alternate plans.
Jerry Dias, Unifor national president, called on the company in a news release on Wednesday to reconsider its decision immediately. Dias is expected to speak at the protest on Wednesday afternoon.
“Workers in Canada will not forgive GM if it continues with the plan to close the Oshawa Assembly Plant and decimate the wider community,” Dias said.
“For more than 100 years this Oshawa plant has built and supported General Motors. Today’s actions by Unifor members send the message that GM must reverse the decision to close the plant.”
GM has rejected union proposals to keep the plant open past 2019. The plant, about 60 kilometres east of Toronto, employs more than 2,500 hourly workers.
The company announced in November that work at the plant would end by December 2019, a decision that Unifor has challenged.