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General Motors to close Oshawa plant, affecting thousands of jobs: source

The General Motors Canada office in Oshawa, Ont., is photographed on Wednesday, June 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
The General Motors Canada office in Oshawa, Ont., is photographed on Wednesday, June 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin - The Canadian Press

OSHAWA, Ont. - General Motors Canada will announce on Monday that it's closing its plant in Oshawa, Ont., in a move that will affect thousands of jobs in the city east of Toronto, The Canadian Press has learned.

The closure of the Oshawa Assembly Plant is part of a shift in the company's global production and has nothing to do with the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, a source familiar with the situation said Sunday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the shift also affects GM operations in other countries, and the Oshawa facility is the only Canadian plant that will be shuttered. GM also operates manufacturing facilities in St. Catharines, Ont., and Ingersoll, Ont.

Unifor, the union representing more than 2,500 workers at the Oshawa plant, said in a statement that it does not have complete details of Monday's announcement, but it has been informed that there is no product allocated to the Oshawa plant past December 2019.

“Based on commitments made during 2016 contract negotiations, Unifor does not accept this announcement and is immediately calling on GM to live up to the spirit of that agreement,” the union said in a statement on its website.

“Unifor is scheduled to hold a discussion with General Motors (Monday) and will provide further comment following the meeting.”

A spokeswoman for GM Canada said Sunday that the company had “no news or comment tonight” and would not be commenting on speculation.

Oshawa Mayor John Henry said he had not spoken to anyone from GM. He said he heard about the reported closure from CTV News, which first reported the story, when a reporter called him for comment earlier in the day.

He said in a phone interview that the plant closure would have ripple effects well beyond the city of roughly 170,000.

“It's going to affect the province, it's going to affect the region ... The auto industry's been a big part of the province of Ontario for over 100 years.

“This country has also invested a lot in General Motors,” he added, referring to the 2009 bailout that saw the federal and provincial governments invest billions in GM and Chrysler to keep the companies afloat.

Federal and provincial politicians also weighed in on the reported closure, expressing concern for the thousands of high-paying jobs at the Oshawa plant - as well as the potential trickle-down effect a closure could have.

Jennifer French, who represents Oshawa in the provincial legislature, said she finds the news “gravely concerning.”

“If GM Canada is indeed turning its back on 100 years of industry and community - abandoning workers and families in Oshawa - then this is a callous decision that must be fought,” she said in a statement.

“GM didn't build #Oshawa. Oshawa built GM,” French added in a tweet.

Conservative MP Colin Carrie, who according to his website spent his summers as a youth working in the Oshawa plant, called the reports “very concerning” and promised to “look further into the situation.”

According to GM's website, the Oshawa Assembly Plant employs 2,522 workers with Unifor Local 222. Production began on Nov. 7, 1953, and in the 1980s the plant employed roughly 23,000 people.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias said in April that the Oshawa complex was headed for closure in June of this year. But he noted the former head of GM Canada, Steve Carlisle, was determined it wouldn't close on his watch.

Carlisle was moved that month to head Cadillac, the global automaker's luxury car division, as part of a management rotation.

At the time of the transfer, Dias said Carlisle's appointment to lead Cadillac would raise his profile and influence within GM's headquarters in Detroit, and that “would be a huge benefit for us.”

The Oshawa operation became a Donald Trump talking point during Canada-U.S. trade negotiations, according to a Toronto Star report about an off-the-record aside during an interview with Bloomberg News over the summer.

“Every time we have a problem with a point, I just put up a picture of a Chevrolet Impala,” the U.S. president was reported to have said. The Impala is built at the GM plant in Oshawa.

- By Adam Burns in Toronto

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