TORONTO -- Nearly 3,900 workers at three of General Motors' Canadian operations are set to lose their jobs as the struggling automaker cuts back massively on its North American operations.
That Canadian cuts represent about 13 percent of the 30,000 manufacturing jobs GM plans to slash across North America.
The Detroit automaker said on Monday that 12 North American plants would be affected over the next three years, including Oshawa Car Plant No. 2 in Ontario, which will cease operations in 2008 when its current product lines end.
GM's West powertrain operations in St. Catharines, Ontario, will also shut in 2008.
The third shift at Oshawa Car Plant No. 1 will be cut in the second half of 2006.
In total, 3,880 jobs will be lost in Canada, Canadian Auto Workers union President Buzz Hargrove said, with most of them being at Plant 2.
Car Plant No. 1, which manufactures the Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo, will see 1,000 jobs lost, while Plant No. 2, which builds the Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Allure/LaCrosse models, will bear the brunt of the cuts, losing 2,750 positions. St. Catharines will see 130 jobs cut.
Michael Grimaldi, head of GM Canada told a press conference the cuts were: "Very tough decisions. Necessary actions that we at GM needed to take."
Hargrove, who just wrapped up contract negotiations with GM Canada earlier this fall, was disturbed by the company's decision, noting that the Oshawa plants are perennial winners of the top automotive awards for productivity.
"I'm shocked. It's devastating news for GM workers and their families, communities and a whole lot of people who work in the automotive parts industry in both Canada and the United States," he told Reuters en route to a press conference in Oshawa.
"It wasn't totally unexpected, but it is still a shock when you hear it."
Hargrove said the number of people affected will increase once the spinoff effects on autoparts makers and service industries are considered.
"It will have an impact on the Canadian economy," he said.
A small consolation, Hargrove said, was that the Beacon Project, a C$2.5 billion infrastructure and training plan involving GM, the provincial and federal governments would be unaffected by the announcement.
Oshawa Mayor John Gray said the news was a blow to the city of about 150,000, which depends on the automotive industry.
"We've got to take this very seriously, but I urge that there be no panic in the community yet," Gray told Reuters.
"We've lived through them before and we will live through them again. I hope we will come out stronger for it."
But independent automotive consultant Dennis Desrosiers praised GM's moves, saying the short-term pain was needed to get the automaker back on more stable financial ground.
"In a perverse way, the worst of the news coming out of GM, the better for GM," Desrosiers said.
"They were caught in a significantly difficult situation with huge costs, and the fact that they cut and cut heavy will set GM up longer term for a more positive future." he said. "As difficult as it is, they are doing the right thing."