TORONTO — Some workers at General Motors’ Oshawa, Ont., assembly plant will be offered retirement incentives of up to $150,000 as the automaker prepares to cut most jobs at the plant.
That’s according to a bulletin posted by Unifor Local 222, which represents about 2,600 hourly workers at Oshawa. The bulletin also notes production of the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS sedans will end there in October, later than the initial summer timeframe offered by GM Canada. Pickup final assembly will end “on or before” Dec. 31, though the bulletin notes that GM would “provide written notice should there be any extensions.”
The details come after GM last week said it would spend $170 million to convert Oshawa into a plant that builds aftermarket parts for GM vehicles and does stamping for the automaker and, potentially, suppliers. The company will also build a test track on the site that will allow for testing of autonomous- and advanced-vehicle technology.
So far, only 300 jobs have been identified for the plant, though Unifor notes in its bulletin that it expects “significant growth” and hopes to have 500 jobs at the plant within three years.
Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter, in a Monday interview with Automotive News Canada, said he expects that target to be exceeded within the first year of operations.
“I feel confident that, based upon what I’m hearing, we’re going to see a lot more jobs that are being created in this new division, more than the 300 that has been announced,” he said.
Unifor Local 222 President Colin James, in a letter attached to the notice, said the union “worked to make the best from what we had.” He criticized the federal and provincial governments for not doing more to pressure GM to reverse course on plans to end vehicle assembly at Oshawa, which were detailed in November.
“I know this is a far cry from what we deserve but when you have governments, both federal and provincial alike, that seem not to care about the loss of good paying jobs it makes what is already an uphill battle even more difficult,” James wrote. “Although I am no fan of [U.S.] President Trump, he at least was able to prompt GM to have second thoughts about what it is doing.”
Carter said the auto industry is in a state of flux not only in Oshawa but throughout Ontario as the Canadian auto industry loses assembly operations but gains r&d jobs. He said the federal and provincial governments need to “sit down and have a national conversation” about where Canada fits in a changing landscape.
“We can’t do it by ourselves,” he said. “We absolutely need the federal and provincial governments to be partners with us as we move forward.”
According to the union, filling the 300 jobs at Oshawa will be based on seniority. GM will also offer $40,000 retirement incentives to workers at its St. Catharines, Ont., propulsion plant and Woodstock, Ont., parts distribution centre. The union says that will create potential “one-for-one” job openings for Oshawa members with more than five years of experience at those locations. Those who transfer will be paid $10,000 for relocation expenses.
Packages for workers with 30 years of service or are of retirement age are among workers eligible for an “enhanced retirement incentive,” which includes $130,000 for non-trades workers and $150,000 for skilled-trades workers. Those workers would also receive a $10,000 vehicle voucher.
Workers with under 30 but more than 26 years of experience can opt to enter a “Leave to Retirement Program,” which would place the worker on leave while receiving 65 per cent of their wages during that time. They would receive retirement incentives of between $55,000 and $95,000 depending upon their job and years of service, as well as a $10,000 vehicle voucher, upon reaching 30 years of seniority.
Those workers can also choose to immediately retire, with retirement packages ranging between $90,000 and $115,000, as well as a vehicle voucher.
Full-time workers with seniority who are less than 50 years old but have 10 or more years of experience and will turn 50 within three years can elect to be placed on layoff before collecting early retirement benefits at age 50. They can also elect to take a buyout of $130,000 ($150,000 for skilled-trade workers) and a $10,000 vehicle voucher.
Those with less than 10 years of seniority will be offered lump sum payments ranging from $10,000 to $40,000 depending upon their experience.
The union’s notice said senior members could apply for up to $6,000 in retraining funds, while temporary, part-time workers can receive up to $3,000. GM Canada has said it would set up a “Jobs Action Centre” to help workers find new jobs in the area and in related fields.
GM and Unifor will meet within 30 days to “develop a plan to support the transition and position the operations for future success,” according to the notice. The parties will also form a committee “assigned to focus on future business development.”