Tuesday, November 24, 2020

GM Canada/Unifor New Labour Agreement Includes Revival of Oshawa Vehicle Production

Photo Credit: General Motors of Canada



While General Motors is recognized as a company rooted with the United States, the automaker has a strong connection to Canada. Initially entering into a deal to purchase Buick engines for vehicles sold by McLaughlin Motor Car Company in 1907, Canadian businessman R.S. McLaughlin gained a strong working relationship with General Motors’ architect William Durant. After the mutually beneficial Buick agreement, McLaughlin aided Durant in foundation of a new auto brand with Swiss race car driver Louis Chevrolet. The Canadian automotive magnate would not only be instrumental in establishing General Motors of Canada Limited serving as a chairman but was also an executive with the main company headquartered in Detroit. More recently, General Motors’ recovery from its 2009 bankruptcy included between 9 and 11 billion dollars in federal and government of Ontario funds.  

After a long intertwined history with Canada, General Motors had made many distressing moves in recent decades on their operations in the country. Despite gaining awards and accolades for assembling quality vehicles with dedicated workers, the auto company had trimmed production at its Oshawa-based assembly complex. Dating back to the production of the earliest McLaughlin-Buick cars, General Motors’ Oshawa facilities assembled what was thought to be its last vehicle at the end of 2019. Less than a year after a 112-year history of manufacturing vehicles appeared to have concluded, General Motors of Canada has now pledged to restart vehicle production in Oshawa as a result to a newly negotiated deal with the union Unifor.

In a three-year agreement that was ratified by 85 percent of Unifor members positioned at General Motors of Canada’s St. Catharines, Oshawa and Woodstock operations, this newest labour contract includes an exciting pledge to the construction of new vehicles in the country. The highlight of the Unifor/General Motors deal is a 1.3-billion dollar commitment to restart truck production in Oshawa. The Oshawa complex currently involved in the production of face masks in partnership with the Canadian government’s in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, new vehicles are expected to churn out of the plant in January of 2022 bringing 1,700 jobs to the area. When the Oshawa Assembly plant will be General Motors’ only facility that can be converted to produce light-duty and heavy-duty trucks.

Other investment announcements made in concert with the new labour deal includes a 109 million dollars towards the St. Catharines Propulsion Plant. In addition to maintaining production of eight-cylinder engines currently used in General Motors’ pickup trucks, large sport utility vehicles as well as the Chevrolet Camaro, the plant will also build a transmission used in the Chevrolet Corvette. General Motors’ Woodstock Parts Distribution Centre will also receive a modest investment to improving the facility.

The new labour agreement does not include workers at the General Motors’ CAMI Assembly Plant located in Ingersoll, Ontario. Currently producing the Chevrolet Equinox, the work force residing under Unifor Local 88 at CAMI operates under a different collective bargaining agreement with a four-year term scheduled to renegotiations next year.  

The ratification of a labour agreement with General Motors Canada concludes what has been a fairly fruitful series of bargaining by Unifor with the Detroit three automakers. Negotiations with Ford Motor Company of Canada resulted in a major pledge to build battery electric vehicles in Oakville while Unifor and Fiat Chrysler also ended with the announcement of new investments including new production at the Windsor plant.