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Workers return to Oshawa GM plant 1 day after learning of its impending closure

Last Updated Nov 27, 2018 at 11:23 am EDT

An assembly line worker at the General Motors Assembly plant in Oshawa works on a car on Dec. 16, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Workers at the General Motors plant in Oshawa are heading back to the assembly line one day after learning the plant will close next year.

Unifor, the union representing more than 2,500 workers at the plant, has told its members to return to work.

On Monday, minutes before GM confirmed it would be closing the plant, dozens of workers were seen walking out of the Oshawa Assembly Plant.

That evening, Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, stood before a union hall overflowing with anxious GM workers and said the union will fight against the planned move “tooth and nail.”

“They are not closing our damn plant without one hell of a fight,” Dias told the audience, some still drenched from holding an impromptu picket line in the driving rain.

He said the plant has won “every award” and was the best by “every matrix.”

“We are sick and tired of being pushed around. And we’re not going to be pushed around … we deserve respect,” he said.

Both the province and the federal government have been in talks to figure out what to do about the plant’s closure.

Premier Doug Ford said he was told about the news on Sunday afternoon.

“The first thing I said to (the president of GM) ‘is there anything we can do as a province, absolutely anything,’ and the answer was no, there’s nothing. Basically the ship has already left the dock. They didn’t ask for anything,” Ford said.

“We supported GM, as everyone remembers, years ago when they were in trouble … our history goes back 100 years with General Motors and to say we’re disappointed is an understatement.”

Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains also expressed his disappointment about the announcement.

“Personally I’m very very hurt by this. I started my career in this sector and I acknowledge the impact this has on the families the communities and so many suppliers as well,” he said.

The GM closures as part of a sweeping strategy to transform its product line and manufacturing process that will see the company focus on electric and autonomous vehicle programs, a plan that it said will save the company US$6 billion by the year 2020.

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.

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