Workers that will not be kept on at Oshawa will be offered “a variety of severance packages,” he said. Details were not immediately known. Although GM Canada did say in a news release that it will offer "enhanced retirement packages to retirement-eligible Oshawa Assembly employees including vouchers toward the purchase of new GM vehicles."
Hester said more details about the retirement packages will be made public Thursday. He said about 50 per cent of Oshawa’s hourly employees, or about 1,300 workers, will be eligible for pension this year.
Some eligible employees will have an opportunity to transfer to GM’s St. Catharines Propulsion Plant and Woodstock Parts Distribution Centre in Ontario. It was not known how many workers would transfer.
Hester said employees who will be searching for other jobs could take advantage of a new “Jobs Action Centre” that will open at the Oshawa plant in June. The centre will help match workers with potential employers, and GM will offer financial support for retraining.
“We have strong hiring demand from over 40 employers around the greater Toronto area,” Hester said. “This is a very unique opportunity to support career transition planning more than six months ahead of the end of production.”
According to a news release, GM has identified about 5,000 job opportunities in the region, ranging from technician roles at GM dealerships to jobs in “energy, manufacturing, services and other sectors.”
Dias said the 300 workers who are retained will keep their current pay and benefits in the new roles. He said he expected many Oshawa workers who will be out of a job to be disappointed.
“They’re going to be upset, and they should be,” Dias told reporters following the press conference. “I’m upset. Don’t misunderstand any of this. What do I say to a community that was hoping we could pull a rabbit out of the hat? I mean, people were legitimately hoping that we would have a solution to keep everybody employed, and that’s what we tried to do. But that’s not there as I stand here today.”
Oshawa currently does stamping for GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck, Mich., assembly plant. Detroit-Hamtramck, however, only has a product mandate lasting through January 2020. The Oshawa plant will also do stamping work for CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., where the Chevrolet Equinox is produced.
Dias and Hester said both parties are in discussions with Magna and Martinrea about stamping work for those suppliers. No agreements have been reached.
“We absolutely have press capacity to do stamping for non-General Motors” companies, Hester said, describing conversations with Magna and Martinrea as “very positive.”
He said contract assembly “is not something we’re considering” with Magna.
Magna CEO Don Walker said in January that it would consider Oshawa as a location for contract assembly in North America, were it to secure deals with manufacturers to build between 20,000 and 50,000 vehicles annually. Magna Steyr, its Austrian business unit, builds vehicles for automakers in Europe.
No federal or provincial funding will be used at the Oshawa plant, Hester said. Dias thanked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for speaking with GM CEO Mary Barra earlier this year about the plant’s future and said he would meet with Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Monday.
In a statement, Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and economic development, said the federal government was “encouraged” by the Oshawa news and said it will “work closely” with GM Canada and Unifor to make sure “workers and their families are supported.”
“Just yesterday, Oshawa’s autoworkers were facing a completely uncertain future,” he said. “Today, GM has committed to providing work for hundreds of them at the plant and to supporting the others, and we want to see it through.”
Todd Smith, Ontario minister of economic development, job creation and trade, said the provincial government also would work with both parties in the coming months, saying it “will always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our auto workers.”
GM and Unifor had been engaged in talks since mid-March, when Unifor suspended its media campaign to save the Oshawa plant. In response to GM’s plans, Unifor staged protests at the 2019 Toronto and Detroit auto shows, aired commercials during high-profile Canadian broadcasts of the Super Bowl and other events and took out advertisements in Detroit’s local newspapers. Workers also staged protests at Oshawa and at its suppliers, briefly halting production at the plant, and members staged a blockade in front of GM Canada’s headquarters in Oshawa.
The two sides are set to negotiate again in 2020 as the union’s four-year collective bargaining agreements with the Detroit 3 end in September of that year.
“The key piece for me is, I’m keeping the footprint,” Dias said. “That’s the key, and then we’ll deal with them in negotiations in 2020.”