Friday, June 06, 2008

Today's meeting of CAW officials with executives of the General Motors corporation in Detroit came out snake-eyes for Canadian auto workers. The meeting listed 90 minutes, and was "tense" according to Hargrove. Management, however, refused to back down one inch, and the CAW's Hargrove said that he would consider his options- a strike, arbitration or labour board complaint. Significantly absent was the possibility of the sort of plant occupations that have won Canadian workers workers victories in the past few years. The president of the union local involved, however, has said that the blockade of the GM headquarters in Oshawa will continue in light of the decision. Here's the story of the meeting as recently published in the Montreal Gazette (from the Windsor Star).

Union to continue fight to save Oshawa plant
DETROIT - Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove said Friday he would continue fighting to save union jobs after General Motors Corp. refused to reverse a decision to close its Oshawa, Ont., truck plant in September 2009.

Emerging from a 90-minute meeting GM chief executive Rick Wagoner- which he described as "tense" - Hargrove said he was "incredibly disappointed" that GM won't honour a bargaining commitment made less than three weeks ago.

"We made a helluva case but they had their minds made up before the meeting and they weren't interested in changing," he said.

CAW president Buzz Hargrove: 'We made a helluva case but they had their minds made up before the meeting.'

GM spokesman Stew Low said the closure decision was prompted by a "fundamental shift away from large trucks and SUVs to cars which we believe is not cyclical and can't be reversed.

"There just isn't the market anymore and we see no reason to keep building vehicles that consumers don't want."

Ron Carlyle, a member of CAW Local 222 which represents workers at the plant, said: "It's a sickening feeling to realize that the company has ripped the heart and soul out of the collective bargaining process."

Carlyle also said a blockade by union members of GM's Canadian headquarters in Oshawa would continue.

Local 222 president Chris Buckley, speaking later to union members outside the GM building, said the vigil will go on until the company agrees to keep the truck plant open.

"They want their building back. They're not getting their building back," he said.

Before Friday's meeting, Hargrove said that nothing short of a reversal by General Motors of its decision to close the Oshawa truck plant would satisfy his members.

GM announced Tuesday that the plant would close in the third quarter of 2009 because of slumping truck sales, throwing 2,600 workers out of their jobs. Hargrove vowed the CAW would fight the closure, which he called a "betrayal" of the collective bargaining process.

During recently completed bargaining, Hargrove said, GM committed to keeping the plant open until the new labour agreement expired in 2011, to continue building hybrid versions of two pickup trucks in Oshawa and to making a new investment in 2011 that would launch the next generation of half-ton trucks.

While the agreement contained a clause addressing market conditions, Hargrove said that GM sold the same number of trucks in May that it sold in April, and added there had been no change in the market in two weeks.

"Someone (at GM) had to have known what was going on. You don't make a decision to close four plants in two weeks," he said.

On Wednesday, GM workers blocked access to GM's Canadian headquarters in Oshawa.
Following discussions between the company and the CAW, GM agreed to Friday's meeting.
Last month, GM announced it would close its Windsor transmission plant, resulting in the loss of 1,200 jobs.

The company and union recently reached a closure agreement for transmission plant workers calling for, among other things, retirement payouts of between $75,000 and $100,000.

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