DETROIT — Unionized workers at an interiors supplier in Ontario returned to work on Wednesday after walking off the job on Tuesday to protest General Motors' plans to end production at its Oshawa assembly plant this year.
The protest at the Inteva Products plant in Whitby, Ont., began at 8:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday when about 100 workers walked off the job, Unifor President Jerry Dias said. The Inteva plant builds interior products such as headliners, floor consoles and instrument panels for the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS, both of which are assembled at GM’s Oshawa Assembly. It also supplies GM’s Hamtramck, Mich., assembly plant, which builds the Impala alongside three other sedans.
It was not immediately clear if the protest has had any immediate effect at GM Oshawa. Dias said the protest had an impact on Tuesday production there, though David Paterson, GM Canada vice-president of corporate and environmental affairs, said he was not aware of any impact. It was not believed Hamtramck was affected.
Regardless, the protest — and any potential impact on auto assembly — appeared to be short-term. A union spokeswoman said employees at the plant returned to work at 6:30 a.m. ET Wednesday.
ACTION TO COME ‘DAY IN, DAY OUT’
Dias said the union would continue with more actions throughout the week, with “more announcements to come” on Wednesday.
“We have a well thought-out strategic campaign that is going to unfold day in, day out,” Dias told reporters at a press conference in Detroit. “This is not going to be a situation where we are going to have an activity on Tuesday and then sit on our laurels for a week or two.”
Paterson criticized the union’s “wildcat actions,” saying they make it less likely for Canada to attract investment.
“It has collateral impacts, not just on General Motors,” Paterson told Automotive News Canada. “We can stand up for ourselves. But when you start to inspire wildcat actions that hurt other businesses and also hurt the reputation of the Ontario and Canadian economies for investment, we think that’s not a very positive thing and is something of concern.”
DECISION IS FINAL
Paterson reiterated the message the automaker conveyed in separate meetings in Detroit with Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Navdeep Bains, federal economic development minister: The decision to closer Oshawa is final, said Paterson.
“We’ve made this decision for economic reasons, and we’ve explained those reasons” to the Ontario and federal governments, he said. “I think both understood that businesses have to transition. It’s unfortunate with regard to one of our plants, but they’re pleased to hear that we’re very committed to our CAMI facility.”
GM met with Bains on Monday evening and with Ford on Tuesday. Both governments offered to work with GM to keep the plant running, but were rebuffed.
Bains said GM “is making a mistake by giving up on Oshawa’s workers, and we’re not about to do the same.” Ford, meanwhile, appeared to at least slightly back off of his previous assertion that there was nothing the Ontario government could do to save Oshawa, urging GM to honour the terms of its contract with Unifor and extend production through the end of September 2020 to buy more time to find a solution.
“Give us another nine months. Let’s see what we can do,” Ford told Automotive News Canada on Monday.
Dias, who opposed Ford’s 2018 campaign for premier and once swore at him during a televised speech, said on Tuesday that he looked forward to working with him.
“We need more allies,” Dias said. “I’m quite fine fighting with a lot of people, but fighting General Motors is a significant enough battle not to have to fight with the premier of Ontario and the prime minister of the country."