Unionized workers at interiors supplier Inteva Products LLC in Ontario walked off the job Jan. 15, the latest action aimed at getting General Motors Co. to reverse plans to end production at its Oshawa assembly plant this year.
The workers returned to work a day later.
The protest at Inteva's plant in Whitby began at 8:30 a.m. when about 100 workers walked off the job, Unifor President Jerry Dias said. The Inteva plant builds interior products such as headliners, floor consoles and instrument panels for the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS, both of which are assembled at GM's Oshawa Assembly. It also supplies GM's Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, which builds the Impala alongside three other sedans.
It was not immediately clear if the protest has had any immediate effect at GM Oshawa. Dias said the protest had an impact on production there, though David Paterson, GM Canada vice president of corporate and environmental affairs, said he was not aware of any impact. It was not believed Hamtramck was affected.
Regardless, the protest — and any potential impact on auto assembly — appeared to be short-term, with workers expected back at work the next day.
Dias said the union would continue with more actions throughout the week, with “more announcements to come.”
“We have a well thought-out strategic campaign that is going to unfold day in, day out,” Dias told reporters at a news conference in Detroit. “This is not going to be a situation where we are going to have an activity on Tuesday and then sit on our laurels for a week or two.”
Paterson criticized the union's “wildcat actions,” saying they make it less likely for Canada to attract investment.
“It has collateral impacts, not just on General Motors,” Paterson told Automotive News Canada, a sister publication of Plastics News. “We can stand up for ourselves. But when you start to inspire wildcat actions that hurt other businesses and also hurt the reputation of the Ontario and Canadian economies for investment, we think that's not a very positive thing and is something of concern.”
Paterson reiterated the message the automaker conveyed in separate meetings in Detroit with Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Navdeep Bains, federal economic development minister: The decision to close Oshawa is final.
“We've made this decision for economic reasons, and we've explained those reasons” to the Ontario and federal governments, he said. “I think both understood that businesses have to transition. It's unfortunate with regard to one of our plants, but they're pleased to hear that we're very committed to our CAMI facility.”
GM met with Bains and Ford this week. Both governments offered to work with GM to keep the plant running, but were rebuffed.
Bains said GM “is making a mistake by giving up on Oshawa's workers, and we're not about to do the same.” Ford, meanwhile, appeared to at least slightly back off of his previous assertion that there was nothing the Ontario government could do to save Oshawa, urging GM to honor the terms of its contract with Unifor and extend production through the end of September 2020 to buy more time to find a solution.
“Give us another nine months. Let's see what we can do,” Ford told Automotive News Canada.