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GM to invest $170-million to convert Oshawa plant, saving 300 union jobs

Eric Atkins, Globe and Mail
May 8, 2019

General Motors Canada says it will invest $170-million and employ 300 people to make auto parts at its plant in Oshawa, Ont., after car assembly stops in December.

Travis Hester, chief executive officer of GM Canada, said the factory east of Toronto will convert to a facility that works on parts stamping and sub-assembly of components, providing a bit of good news for employees of the battered auto sector.

He said the plant’s customers will be GM and other auto makers. “It has tremendous opportunity for growth,” Mr. Hester said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The plan announced on Wednesday includes relocation offers for laid-off workers, enhanced retirement packages for 1,300 employees, and the construction of a test track at the site for autonomous vehicles.

The factory was expected to be closed by the end of the year after Detroit-based GM said it was stopping production of the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS, eliminating about 3,000 jobs and ending a century of car making.

Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, said he was glad GM is maintaining a footprint in Oshawa, and said he believes employment will grow as the plant wins new work. He expressed regret most of the 2,600 jobs will be gone and no cars are planned for the factory.

“Do I believe this is perfect? The answer is no,” Mr. Dias said. “Obviously we wanted another vehicle in Oshawa. The question is what do we do?”

Flavio Volpe, head of industry group Automotive Parts Manufacturer’s Association, said the announcement was “unexpected,” and left open the possibility the Oshawa plant could one day become a bigger part of GM’s autonomous vehicle assembly. He said maintaining the factory to make parts was a second-best outcome, behind a new car announcement but well ahead of a move to sell the land entirely.

“The significance is they’re in the game. Oshawa, as an assembly plant, isn’t dead. It’s in hibernation,” Mr. Volpe said by phone.

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