Unifor says it has struck a tentative deal with General Motors that will see vehicle production return to Oshawa.

The union says the tentative $1.3 billion deal will create at least 2,000 jobs starting in 2021.

In a statement, GM said it plans to invest $1 billion to 1.3 billion in the plant, with the expected hiring of 1,400 to 1,700 hourly workers.

“Subject to ratification of our 2020 agreement with Unifor, General Motors plans to bring pickup production back to the Oshawa Assembly Plant while making additional investments at the St. Catharines Propulsion Plant and Woodstock Parts Distribution Centre,” GM Canada President Scott Bell a statement.

Unifor President Jerry Dias announced the deal at a news conference Thursday and called it a “home run.”

“This is an opportunity to restart Oshawa immediately,” Dias told CP24 in an interview a short time later. “It’s about reopening a community. It really is about putting a stake in the ground and moving forward.”

The company announced in 2018 that it would shutter vehicle assembly at the Oshawa plant as part of restructuring and vehicle assembly stopped there in December 2019, resulting in the loss of about 2,300 jobs.

Negotiations between the union and company remained ongoing and Unifor was able to obtain a commitment that the ability to assemble vehicles at the plant would remain intact even after production stopped there in 2019.

The retooled plant will assemble heavy and light duty trucks, such as the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra.

Construction to facilitate the assembly will begin “immediately” at the plant and will include a new body shop and flexible assembly module, the company said.

Dias offered a slightly higher estimate than GM for the number of jobs that will be created at the plant, pegging it at somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500.

He told CP24 that while electric vehicle technology will eventually create more jobs in Ontario, the announcement that GM will resume production of vehicles in Oshawa provides a solution for the community “today.”

Dias said GM will start hiring workers back to the plant in August 2021. Production of the first vehicles is expected to begin in January 2022, GM said.

GM also announced Thursday that it will be investing $109 million in St. Catharines to support increased engine and transmission production and $500 million in operations at the Woodstock Parts Distribution Centre.

The deal announced Thursday did not include commitments from the federal and provincial governments, however GM said it plans to continue discussions with both and Dias said that they have both been actively engaged with the industry.

Timing of the announcement is good for the Ontario government. It comes the same day that Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government tabled a budget to chart a way forward through the economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario’s unemployment rate stood at 9.5 per cent as of September, according to Statistics Canada.

A statement released by Ford and Minister of Economic Development Vic Fedeli said the deal is “good news for Ontario” and proof that the government is “on the right track.”

“Investments like these are a clear sign that the steps our government is taking to support Ontario’s auto sector, and the thousands of jobs that rely on it, are working,” the statement read “Today’s announcement is proof that Ontario’s automotive sector remains strong even in these difficult times.”

The statement pointed to the government’s “ten-year Driving Prosperity plan” but did not specify any commitments to the GM deal.

The deal is welcome news for Oshawa, where a number of related jobs have been lost as a result of the layoffs at GM.

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said he got a text message about the deal at around 4:30 a.m.

“It said ‘Mayor Carter, be prepared to be the happiest mayor in all of Canada’ and I can say that they were absolutely correct. I’m ecstatic,” Carter told reporters Thursday afternoon, adding that his community has faced “challenge after challenge” over the past few years but has persevered.

Workers are expected to hold a ratification vote on the deal on Nov. 8.