Aug 25, 2006
The nine-month saga at General Motors came to an end on Monday in a media circus revolving around a shiny red Camaro.
For those involved in the often-tense negotiations, the announcement that Oshawa beat out all the competition and won the bid to build the remake of the great American muscle car was sweet victory.
Representatives from all levels of government came to bask in the news. From large political figures like Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and federal Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty, to local politicians and community leaders, it was smiles and handshakes all around.
But for the workers whose jobs will hopefully be saved by the new product line that will be built inside a soon-to-be revamped flexible manufacturing facility, the mood was more cautious. Asked what they thought, many shrugged their shoulders and said it was good news but they were still concerned about the future. And who can blame them?
In November 2005, these very workers heard that more than 3,500 of them would be handed the pink slip by 2008. Then a scant three months later, General Motors bullied the Canadian Auto Workers union into signing a cost-cutting agreement saying that if the Oshawa plant couldn't become even more competitive, GM would not award it new products and the plants would eventually phase out and shut down. The workers would all lose their jobs.
Now it seems that at least some of those jobs will be saved, although no one really knows how many. The CAW believes that most of the job loss that will result from turning the two plants (that currently run on five shifts) into one large plant (that will run on a maximum of three shifts) can be achieved through attrition. GM is saying that the amount of people who will be employed at the new plant will depend on how well the products built in it sell.
With the lack of substantial numbers, it is understandable that, even as the announcement is praised as good news in almost every media outlet, the workers remain skeptical. They are, after all, the ones who have everything to lose.
Reporter Izabela Jaroszynski's column appears every other Sunday. E-mail [email protected].