AUDIO: Sell Here, Build Here: Unifor Rallies to Save GM plant

The president of Unifor says they are not going away and is adamant the GM plant in Oshawa will stay open. 

Jerry Dias delivered an impassioned plea to more than a thousand union members at a rally in Windsor Friday morning to continue to fight General Motors and force the automaker to keep its Oshawa assembly plant open past 2019. 

Some of those in attendance included hundreds of workers from Oshawa, who travelled to Windsor by bus. 

Dias said the automaker was changing its name from General Motors to "Greedy Motors" since close to 3,000 jobs would be lost in Oshawa when the plant ends operations. 

Dias led the crowd in chants of "Sell Here, Buy Here."

He delivered a message to GM CEO Mary Barra that they are "disgusted at your corporate greed."

"Shame on you General Motors,” added Greg Moffatt, plant chair with Unifor Local 222 at GM in Oshawa.

Dias, the national union president, also demanded a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford to pressure the governments to do what they can to keep the plant open. 

Dias told the crowd the fight is not done and they will be at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit when it opens to the media next week. 

“The ship hasn’t sailed, because we are not accepting the decision,” said Dias.

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Unifor president Jerry Dias speaks to more than a thousand people at a rally in Windsor on January 11, 2019. ( photo by Peter Langille / AM800 News )

The union demonstration took place on the same General Motors strengthened its pretax profit estimate for 2018 and predicted even stronger performance for this year.

CEO Mary Barra also said the company doesn't foresee any further job cuts through 2020. 

The company predicts 2018 pretax, per-share profits will be higher than the $5.80 to $6.20 range it forecast in the third quarter. For 2019, it expects that to increase to $6.50 to $7.

Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara said restructuring efforts will help GM's bottom line in 2018 by $2 billion to $2.5 billion, with a total benefit of $4.5 billion in cost savings and $1.5 billion less in capital spending by the end of 2020.

In November, GM announced plans to shut the plants and lay off the workers, including about 3,300 at four U.S. factories that mainly make cars and components, 2,600 at a factory in Canada and over 8,000 white-collar workers. The company said the moves are necessary to stay financially healthy as it makes the transition to more electric and autonomous vehicles.

Barra said Friday that GM has 2,700 jobs at other factories for the 3,300 U.S. factory workers slated for layoff. About 1,500 workers have expressed interest in moving to other plants, and 700 already have been placed, she said. Another 1,200 are eligible to retire, she said.

GM has faced withering criticism from politicians and U.S. and Canadian unions because of the cuts. T

Other plants slated for closure include Lordstown, Ohio; Detroit-Hamtramck, Michigan; Warren, Michigan, White Marsh, Michigan, and near Baltimore.

Earlier this week, GM rejected Unifor’s plans to keep the Oshawa plant open past 2019.

GM officials said they responded to Unifor proposals from December and invited the union to begin constructive discussions on transition strategies and supports for Oshawa Assembly workers who may elect to either retire or pursue new careers following their work for GM.

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Members of Unifor wear shirts with a message for General Motors at a rally in Windsor on January 11, 2019. ( photo by Manny Paiva / AM800 News )

On Dec. 14, GM Canada announced millions of dollars in training support for Oshawa Assembly employees who wish to transition to new careers but may require additional training.

GM officials say they have been contacted by more than 20 large employers across Durham Region and the GTA interested in hiring GM workers for up to 5,000 positions they plan to fill over the next two years.

Unifor has been running ads critical of the company's decision and highlighting that it accepted $11 billion in bailout funds from Canadian governments in the financial downturn. The union has also emphasized the many spin-off jobs that depend on the Oshawa plant and the wider impacts of its closure on the economy.