In another down-to-the-wire negotiation session, Unifor President Jerry Dias has announced a tentative deal with General Motors that brings production back to the Oshawa Assembly Plant that has been closed since last year. The plant will get pickup truck production back online, and Dias is hoping for three shifts starting in 2022.
GM announced the closure of the Oshawa plant, which has been making vehicles since 1918, in 2018. Parts of the plant were set to be saved by being converted to the production of replacement parts, and a plan was announced to use part of the site for autonomous vehicle testing, but both slashed jobs from thousands down to just hundreds. GM and Dias announced that under the tentative deal, GM was planning $1 billion to $1.3 billion in investments at the plant, retooling the body show and flexible assembly module to build full-size light-duty and HD versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.
Dias said he expected the retooling to start immediately upon ratification, and for production to start in January of 2022. That would involve one shift at startup, with a second in March and possibly a third shift starting that July. Dias said that this could bring around 2,000 jobs to the plant, with thousands more expected at suppliers in the area making components for the trucks. He also mentioned a possible new vehicle arriving in 2022. HD trucks will come first, followed by light-duty trucks in May and that will make Oshawa the only GM plant that can build both.
St Catharines Propulsion plant, which builds V6 and V8 engines for GM, as well as transmissions, will also see $109 million to add engine and transmission production to the facility. That will include building more transmissions for Chevrolet Equinox as well as for the C8 Chevrolet Corvette. St Catharines had been expecting a potential layoff of up to half of workers during the agreement, and Dias said the agreement would reverse that.
Unifor members will vote on the tentative deal Sunday, and Dias said that if ratified, most of the changes would start to happen right away, including at St. Catharines, citing GM's immediate need for more components. GM is the last of the Big Three automakers to reach a deal with Unifor, which represents their Canadian workers.