This morning, Unifor’s National President, Jerry Dias and Travis Hester, President and Managing Director of GM Canada, made an announcement about operations in Oshawa. This follows months of hand-wringing and table-thumping after General Motors announced the facility in that community would not be allocated a new product to build.
Today’s announcement centered on GM’s new commitment to invest about $170 million to convert the Oshawa Assembly plant to one focused on stamping, related sub-assembly, and other miscellaneous activities for GM and other auto industry customers. The move is expected to retain 300 Oshawa jobs with the potential to grow and generate significant additional jobs in the coming years, as the business attracts new customers.
Donning a pair of glasses, Hester began the press conference by speaking of “positive and proactive discussions” with Unifor and its leadership. There is no change in the plans for vehicle allocation, so production will cease in December of this year. Following a transition period, the plant will pivot to its new role as what was described by Dias in the news conference as an “aftermarket facility”.
GM was careful to make the point that every penny of this $170 million investment comes from their own coffers and not from any form of government assistance. The company will also convert 55 acres of land into an into a test track for autonomous and advanced technology vehicles – further expanding the capability of GM’s Canadian Technical Centre (CTC) in Ontario.
Two phrases were consistently slung around like rice at a wedding during the presser: “maintaining the footprint” and “maintaining the integrity of manufacturing” in Oshawa. Dias was quick to note that these moves announced today puts a good foot forward and “makes the best” out of the current situation. He said this plan is one which creates the first ever aftermarket facility for GM vehicles, one which will stamp the likes of doors, hoods, trunks, and other body panels. It wasn’t immediately clear for what vehicles this stamping will be performed but Dias mentioned the Traverse and Equinox. Those could have just been off-the-cuff examples.
The big takeaway from all this could be a statement made by Hester in response to a media question, one in which he said the Oshawa plant is “not a vehicle assembly centre.” Reading between the lines, it certainly sounds like it’ll take a minor miracle to see a completed vehicle roll out of Oshawa again. Dias did make the good point that GM’s Springhill plant was once in a similar situation as Oshawa but now makes SUVs. By keeping the lights on in Oshawa, however dim they may be, a footprint is maintained for potential future growth.