Oshawa GM workers feel the pressure as plant’s future in limbo


Future of Oshawa GM plant key issue in Unifor and GM bargaining talks

General Motors plant
General Motors plant
OSHAWA — Wendy Fallis and Rebecca Keetch work at the Oshawa General Motors plant and are fearful for their jobs. The union has announced that GM is the target in bargining talks and unequivocally stated it will not sign a contract without production guarantees for Oshawa. September 6, 2016
OSHAWA — As the union representing autoworkers targets GM in bargaining with the Detroit three automakers, it’s clear to Oshawa plant workers their jobs are at stake.

Earlier this week, Unifor announced it would negotiate first with GM and then sign deals with Ford and Fiat Chrysler that follow a similar pattern. Union executives made it clear they chose GM as the target because they feared for the future of Oshawa’s manufacturing plant which currently employs roughly 2,300 people.

In August, 97 per cent of GM workers voted to strike if a deal cannot be reached by Sept. 19 at midnight.

“Nobody wants a strike, very few people see a strike being worth it for short-term gains or just money but right now people are fighting for their livelihood and they are resolved they’re going to follow the leadership and we’re going to try to keep our jobs,” said Rebecca Keetch, an Oshawa resident who has worked for GM since 2006.

Keetch is a supplemental worker meaning she has a lower payscale and smaller benefits package than other workers in the plant. She is among the more than 400 workers in the plant who have been hoping to become full-time workers with a new contract.

“There’s always been the carrot dangling in front of you that you’re going to be hired full time and it’s pretty depressing to be working under these circumstances in the hope of being hired full time and then finding out that everybody may be out of work if GM doesn’t want to show some loyalty to the community that’s really given itself to it.”

As a single woman maintaining a house, a plant closure would be devastating.

“It would put me in a really tough position, it would put a lot of people here in a tough position, I think I would be in danger of losing my house,” she said.

Wendy Fallis has worked for GM for 12 years and went through a plant closure at Acsys Technologies in 2003.

“We’re just hoping and praying GM will give us some product here because we’ve worked hard, we’ve won so many awards for them that you know what, it’s sad if they take it away because they’ve got a good plant here,” she said.

GM officials have said they’ll consider new product for Oshawa after a deal with the union is reached, but union officials say they won’t sign a deal until there’s a promise of product.

Some workers feel like they’ve been through it all before.

“Same thing, you go through it every few years,” said John Treen, a 33-year employee of the Oshawa plant. “No sense worrying about it, it is what it is.”

In his mid-50s, he’s too young to retire now, he’s hoping to make it through a few more years at GM to support his family.

“I’ve got another six years, I’ve got a daughter that’s in Grade 10 this year,” he said.

Kyle Roblin of Belleville is also a 12-year employee. He said many of the workers don’t know much about what’s happening with bargaining talks.

“I think they’ll have something for us, we’re hopeful,” he said. “This is the contract where we need something or the place won’t exist much longer.”

Fallis said she attends union meetings and is there when volunteers are needed to distribute petitions in the community. The Oshawa resident said she believes her community is behind her.

“I live in a neighbourhood that all support General Motors, they won’t buy GM products if they take it away, they’re already saying that,” she said.