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CAW: We'll get our share of Impala

Conspicuously absent from General Motors' announcement this week that the next-generation Chevy Impala will be built in Detroit was any mention of the place that makes the current version: GM's Oshawa, Ontario, assembly plant.

Oshawa has been assembling the Impala for more than a decade. And if you ask a top union official there, Oshawa will continue building it long after the next version's launch, expected in 2014.

Chris Buckley, president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 222 in Oshawa, says GM has a written commitment to allocate at least a portion of its next-generation Impala production to Oshawa.

So why didn't GM say as much on Wednesday, when it unveiled plans to add up to 2,500 workers at its Detroit-Hamtramck, in part to build the next Impala?

Buckley calls the omission a thinly veiled threat.

GM still hasn't settled a spat with its unionized retirees in Canada over how much the automaker will pony up for a health-care trust. The Canadian government required GM to set up the trust as part of GM's bailout in 2009.

An internal memo from GM Canada to Oshawa workers on Wednesday suggests that the automaker is in no mood to lavish jobs on Canada before it's closed a deal with CAW's retirees.

"The health care trust, which is a key element of our restructuring, has not yet been established," the memo from GM Canada reads. "Therefore, we are not making any announcements regarding our Canadian operations today."

Buckley's translation: "It's fear mongering."

"They might want to come clean with everybody and also announce that Oshawa, Ontario, will produce its share of Impalas," along with Detroit-Hamtramck, he says.

Buckley points out that Oshawa also is slated to get the Cadillac XTS, a new sedan expected to go into production next year. He says GM refuses to go public with that plan -- even though it's been widely reported -- because of its standoff with retirees.

The memo from GM Canada says Oshawa is "working on trial pre-production requirements for the new Cadillac" but the company won't confirm any commitment to build it there.

GM Canada spokesman Jason Easton would not comment on Buckley's contention that GM has committed to future Impala production in Oshawa.

"We have made no announcements with respect to future products at Oshawa," Easton said. "We have public production commitments for Canada and we intend to meet those targets."

He said GM has committed that 16 percent of its North American production through 2016 will come from Canada.

If Buckley's right, a portion of that 16 percent will include the new Impala.

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