CAW resigned to Oshawa closure

CAW resigned to Oshawa closure

TORONTO – The Canadian Auto Workers says it accepts that General Motors is determined to shutter its truck plant in Oshawa, Ont., in the fall of 2009 but the union again vowed to fight the closure despite the odds.

Union president Buzz Hargrove and local president Chris Buckley met with GM (NYSE:GM) officials Thursday at the CAW’s headquarters in Toronto, emerging from the third such meeting this month to confirm the company had again refused to reverse its decision to shut down the truck operation east of Toronto.

“The one thing that is clear is the truck plant is definitely closing in the third quarter of 2009,” said Hargrove.

“Eventually if somebody keeps hitting you with a sledgehammer you’re going to wake up. Right now we don’t have a truck, and we don’t have a plant,” he said.

The automaker did discuss the possibility of bringing new models to the Oshawa car plant, but said Hargrove he would not discuss details or a time frame because of a confidentiality agreement.

The CAW met with GM the same day the company’s shares fell to their lowest since 1975, as analysts speculated how bad things will get for U.S. automakers.

Goldman Sachs put a “sell” rating on GM shares and lowered its price target to US$11 from US$19.

GM stocks tumbled as low as $11.21 on Thursday, a loss of 10 per cent.

Earlier this week it was reported that GM was considering bringing a Cadillac luxury car and an update of the Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan to the Oshawa car plant, but any new model would likely be years away.

Even if GM closes the truck operation, it’s important the company doesn’t demolish the plant, added Buckley. The union hopes a new GM truck model can be brought to the Oshawa site in the near future.

“Their business is changing every month, the way the auto industry is changing, so we’re hoping in the next year or two, or maybe three, things will turn around somewhat, where there is a product that will fit right into the Oshawa truck plant,” said Buckley.

Refitting a truck plant to suit a smaller vehicle would cost at least $1 billion, Hargrove said.

GM has not said what it plans to do with the truck facility. But the company will likely come out with new truck models over the next few years and the CAW wants them to be built in Oshawa, Buckley added.

The company announced Monday that truck plant workers will also face temporary shut downs beginning in July.

All the plant’s 2,600 employees will be affected by the closure, which will temporarily lay off workers for up to eight separate weeks of downtime, the company said.

GM eliminated one shift at the truck plant at the start of this year and plans to cut the remaining two-shift operation to one shift during yet-to-be-specified weeks as the demand for pickups continues to fall in the face of high gasoline prices and the slumping U.S. construction sector.

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