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Canadian union boss disappointed after meeting with GM on plant closure, considers strike

Canadian union boss disappointed after meeting with GM on plant closure, considers strike

The Canadian Auto Workers could strike or take other action against General Motors Corp. because the company won't budge on plans to close an Ontario pickup truck factory, the union's president said Friday.
Buzz Hargrove said the automaker committed to keeping the Oshawa plant open in a contract agreement on May 15. But earlier this week, GM said it would close the plant in 2009. It employs 2,600 hourly and 300 salaried workers.
After meeting with GM CEO Rick Wagoner on Friday in Detroit, Hargrove said the company wouldn't change its latest stance.
"We're walking away incredibly disappointed," he said. "We still feel betrayed."
GM said it can idle factories if market conditions warrant. In May, U.S. pickup sales fell more than 38 percent, and the company has said the market declined more rapidly than expected last month.
Detroit-based GM announced Tuesday it was closing Oshawa and three other pickup truck and sport utility vehicle factories as $4 per gallon ($1.05 a liter) gas has caused sales to tumble.
Union officials described the 90-minute meeting as tense. Hargrove said the CAW would decide its next move after its national convention later this month. Other moves could include arbitration, legal action or filing a complaint with Canada's labor board, he said.
A union blockade of GM's Oshawa offices will continue, union officials said.
Hargrove said market conditions haven't changed in the 2 1/2 weeks since GM agreed to the new three-year deal with the CAW.
"We haven't seen any evidence of that whatsoever," he said, adding that gasoline prices haven't changed since then.
Hargrove said the union has time to decide its next move because the plant isn't scheduled to close until 2009.
"They made a clear-cut commitment on the truck plant" to keep it open and invest in it, he said.
Wagoner told Hargrove and other union officials there was some promise of new products for the Oshawa car plant, Hargrove said. But the CAW president said that wasn't good enough.
Chris Buckley, president of the union local at the truck plant, said GM wrecked any trust it had with the union.
"They fractured the relationship severely," he said.
GM spokesman Stew Low said the factory commitments in the CAW contract are contingent upon board approval, market conditions and making a viable business case.
At the time of negotiations, GM still believed that the slumping pickup market could recover, Low said. Since then, the the trend away from trucks to cars has accelerated, he said.
"We're not in a situation where this is a cyclical type of economic condition where we can wait it out," he said. "We think it's a fundamental shift."
The decision to cease production at the four plants, including Oshawa truck, was made just a few days before Tuesday's announcement and after the bargaining was concluded, he said.
"We absolutely bargained in good faith," Low said.
Oshawa truck was picked for idling because it makes high-end pickups with more expensive options, a segment of the market affected severely by the sales decline, Low said.
Low said GM committed during contract talks to build a second car at the Oshawa car plant, and is looking at a third because the plant is flexible enough to build several models. He would not say what models.
The union's office blockade has forced GM employees to work from their homes, Low said.
GM shares fell 65 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $16.40 in midday trading Friday after sinking to a 52-week low of $16.35 earlier in the session.


Updated : 2021-08-01 03:40 GMT+08:00