Unifor President Jerry Dias struck a defiant tone in the wake of the Ontario labour board’s ruling that the union had engaged in unlawful strikes at General Motors’ Oshawa Assembly Plant and its suppliers, saying further strikes are “absolutely” still on the table.
The Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled in February that demonstrations at the Oshawa plant on Nov. 26 and Jan. 8 and 9 were illegal, as were strikes at an Inteva Products plant Jan. 15 and a Lear Corp. plant Feb. 8. Labour board Chairman Bernard Fishbein ruled that the actions were illegal under the Labour Relations Act and barred the union from conducting similar actions.
Unifor must “cease and desist from engaging in, authorizing or counselling unlawful strikes or engaging in any act that is likely to cause employees at the Inteva, Lear or GM plant (or any other supplier of the GM plant) or any employees having notice of this decision to engage in any unlawful strike,” Fishbein ruled.
Dias brushed off the ruling, saying the union still sees similar actions as viable options in its fight to get GM to reverse course on its plans for Oshawa. As of early March, however, the union had not conducted any Oshawa-related strike actions since Feb. 8.
“This is an issue that will be settled at the bargaining table, not in the courtroom,” Dias said. “So if anybody thinks I’m intimidated by it, I’m not. If I think about the number of injunctions I’ve had since last year, I could wallpaper an entire room with it.”
The Unifor strikes were in response to GM’s decision to end production at the Oshawa plant by the end of this year. Unifor has taken an aggressive approach that also has included organizing protests at the 2019 Detroit and Toronto auto shows and buying ad time for anti-GM commercials on high-profile broadcasts of the Super Bowl, Academy Awards and other programs.
Unifor’s actions have raised the ire of General Motors Canada, which has said the automaker’s decision is final and has urged the union to work with it to find soon-to-be displaced workers new jobs. GM Canada has taken to social media to respond to the union’s claims and has said many of Unifor’s talking points are misleading or false, including the notion that Oshawa jobs are moving to Mexico.
GM intends to end production at Oshawa as part of a larger restructuring plan. The factory, which employs about 2,600 unionized workers, builds the Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala sedans. It also does final assembly on previous-generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup bodies shipped from the United States.