TORONTO - The union representing workers at the General Motors plant in Oshawa, just east of Toronto, reacted with anger Tuesday after the company announced it will move its Camaro production to Michigan.
The long-rumoured shutdown will be at Oshawa’s flex plant, which employs 2,000 people, who also build the Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS.
“General Motors has once again shown a complete and utter disregard for its workers and also Canadians in general, whose tax dollars kept the company out of bankruptcy,” Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) national president Ken Lewenza said in a statement.
The union predicts up to one-third of production in Oshawa will end by late 2015 or early 2016.
CAW and GM officials agreed during their last contract talks in the fall to keep Camaros rolling off the local assembly plant until 2014, when a new model would be unveiled. The company also made a commitment to extend the life of its local “consolidated” facility.
Crews at the flex plant are due to add a third shift to start assembling a new-generation Chevrolet Impala next year.
The union has called for GM to replace production of the sporty car with other vehicles, to avoid job cuts at the flex plant and local auto parts supply companies.
“This decision will cause yet another devastating shock to the Durham Region and the country’s auto industry,” Lewenza said, describing the announcement and its timing as “callous and poorly thought-out.” The Camaro, which GM built from 1966 until 2002, was revived in 2009. The current model is the fifth generation design.
In Oshawa, Chris Buckley, president of CAW Local 222, also criticized GM’s timing, saying “our members are now going into the holiday season wondering what will happen to them and if they’ll have jobs in the future.
“General Motors must now explain to our members and Canadian taxpayers why they are pulling more production out of the country,” Buckley said.
GM Canada spokesman Faye Roberts told reporters that switching production to Lansing, Mich., will affect local workers.
But Roberts could not predict how many will lose their jobs.
“Lower capital investment and improved production efficiencies were key factors” in the move, General Motors Canada said in a statement.
Roberts said GM wants to consolidate rear-wheel drive vehicle assemblies at the Lansing Grand River plant, where rear-wheel-drive Caddies are built.
The company promised to meet production targets arranged in 2009 with the federal and Ontario governments.
Both governments helped bail out GM and Chrysler in 2009 to the tune of $13.7 billion. Ottawa and Queen’s Park share ownership of about 9% of GM’s common shares.