3,000 jobs in limbo as GM stays silent on Oshawa plant’s future
Published Thursday, January 21, 2016 9:22AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 21, 2016 11:47PM EST
Nearly 3,000 auto jobs in Oshawa, Ont., remain in limbo after Canada's economic development minister received no solid commitments from General Motors’ chief at a key meeting in Davos.
GM CEO Mary Barra spoke with Navdeep Bains Thursday morning, shortly before she met privately with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Bains said he pitched Ontario as an automotive hub well-equipped to build self-driving cars -- a highly buzzed innovation in the auto industry.
But the company gave no clear indication as to the future of the Oshawa plant, which laid off about 1,000 employees last November.
“When it came to specific production sites and vehicles, they’ll make that determination on a going-forward basis, but there were no specifics that were provided at that time,” Bains said at a press conference.
It’s unclear what’s next for the GM plant, which will see its final Chevy Equinox roll off the assembly line in 2017. Three other cars -- the Chevy Impala, Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS -- will cease production this year.
GM has said that it won’t make any decisions until it concludes union negotiations later this year.
Canadian autoworkers' union Unifor hopes the Detroit-based company will take advantage of the falling loonie to modernize the Oshawa facility for the production of high-tech vehicles.
“We are sitting today at a Canadian dollar below 70 cents. They’re printing money based on the operations. Why wouldn't they take advantage of that?” Unifor national president Jerry Dias told CTV News.
The government says that a $500 million innovation fund is available if the car company is interested in keeping the plant alive.
"These decisions by companies are not made on the spot. What they're looking for is a government that's willing to work with them, to partner with them," Bains said.
The company has gradually moved production outside Canada to places such as Michigan, despite the federal and provincial government pouring billions into the company amid the 2008 economic crash. The investment was made, in part, to help keep auto jobs in Ontario.
GM’s indecision comes as Trudeau aims to rebrand Canada from a resource-rich nation to a country of resourceful and highly educated workers.
No firm deals have been inked, but officials say the prime minister is making important relationships for the future.
GM wasn’t the only automaker on the prime minister’s agenda. Trudeau also met with the chairman of India’s Tata Motors, which builds the world’s cheapest car, the Tata Nano.
The company has considered moving production to North America.
And while Canada hasn’t locked down any deals, Trudeau seems to be in high demand. According to one report, about 400 people came for his keynote address Wednesday -- more than were in the room just minutes before as two top Iranian officials spoke.
With files CTV’s Richard Madan in Davos and The Canadian Press