Workers at GM plant growing anxious with Camaro production set to end
Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, June 27, 2015 10:00PM EDT
With the production of Chevrolet Camaros in Canada on its final lap, and the last iconic muscle car set to roll off assembly lines at the end of November, workers at the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ont., are growing increasingly worried about their future.
GM announced near the end of April that it will cut about 1,000 positions from the factory on Nov. 20, to coincide with the end of the Camaro's seven-year run in Canada.
For many longtime GM workers, it's not just the end of an era, but the beginning of a rough road ahead for Oshawa.
"It doesn't just affect General Motors, it affects the entire community. For every job inside, it affects seven jobs outside," Chris Black, a worker at the Oshawa plant, told CTV News.
Since GM announced the redesigned muscle car would be built in Oshawa in 2006, roughly 130,000 vehicles have rolled off the line each year.
The move saved 2,700 jobs, but now Ontario's beleaguered auto sector is set to take another hit as GM's operations shift to Michigan.
While Unifor has been bracing for a significant downsizing since plans to end production of the Camaro were announced in late 2012, workers are still "apprehensive" about their future.
"They're trying to figure out their future. They're buying cars, they're raising families and sending people off to school, so they want (stability)," said Ron Svajlenko, president of Unifor Local 222.
GM said it remains committed to Canada, and will continue to produce five other vehicles at the factory.
But the number of employees has dwindled. Ten years ago, the plant had 11,000 workers. Next year, that number will shrink to just 2,500.
Earlier this month, the federal and Ontario governments appointed auto czar Ray Tanguay, the recently retired chairman of Toyota Motor Manufacting Canada, as a special adviser to help shore up the industry.
Car collectors have also been saddened by the Camaro's departure from Canada. Many felt a heightened sense of pride over its production origins, dubbing it "the Canadian muscle car."
"Everyone has been talking about the Camaro leaving the Oshawa plant," said Jason Ramsay, president of the Ontario Camaro Club.
"It just seems like yesterday that GM announced that the Camaro was making a return and that it was going to be built in Oshawa. We were ecstatic at that time," he added.
But that excitement has dissipated, replaced by anxiety as the Camaro joins the long list of manufacturing operations that have left the country.
Black anticipates an emotional send-off after the Oshawa plant puts the finishing touches on the last Canadian muscle car.
"There is going to be a lot of sadness, and there will probably be some anger too, because we put a lot of pride in the vehicles we make," said Black.
With a report from CTV News' Scott Laurie