OSHAWA, Ontario -- The city of Oshawa, Ontario may be a good 4-1/2 hour drive from the home offices of Detroit-based General Motors. But when General Motors sneezes, Oshawa quickly catches a cold.
When the world's biggest automaker announced 30,000 job cuts across North America on Monday the community found itself directly in the crosshairs of the troubled U.S. auto industry.
About 12 percent of GM's cuts will come at the expense of Oshawa workers, who seemed largely resigned on Monday to the fact they are not immune to Detroit's ailments.
"We had to bleed a bit, too," said Steve, a middle-aged worker leaning on a chain-link fence outside the Oshawa truck plant, part of a sprawling complex that leaves a heavy geographic and economic footprint on the city of about 150,000 on the shores of Lake Ontario, east of Toronto.
"The company's on the ropes. If you kept up on the Internet with what was happening, this wasn't a surprise."
Oshawa is the hub of GM's Canadian operations, and one of the main manufacturing centers in an Ontario industry that rivals Michigan's in terms of auto production.
GM will cut 1,000 jobs at Oshawa's Car Plant No. 1, which manufactures the Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo. The No. 2 plant, which builds the Pontiac Grand Prix and the Buick Allure and LaCrosse models, will be shut in 2008, resulting in 2,750 lost positions.
The decision, which comes as GM struggles to compete with rivals led by Toyota Motor Corp., was particularly surprising to some, given the Oshawa plants ranked first and second in the most recent J.D. Power and Associates quality survey of North American assembly plants.
"It came as a complete shock," Oshawa Mayor John Gray told Reuters.
"Obviously, we knew that GM is in some difficulties, but it did come as a surprise that they would want to touch probably their most productive, efficient award-winning plants."
Gray said the layoffs would have a far larger impact than on just the workers and families immediately affected, lamenting the potential impact on spending habits ahead of Christmas season.
"I think the most critical element right now is that this is going to put a lock on people's wallets," he said.
The Canadian Auto Workers union estimates that the Oshawa GM complex is responsible for about 59,000 jobs in the region, factoring in the 14,000 workers at the plants themselves, as well as service industries that cater to the families who owe their livelihood to the automaker.
Analysts lauded the GM move, saying it was necessary to get the company back on firm financial footing.
But on a grey, windy day in an industrial town on the cusp of a long Canadian winter, locals at a coffee shop just outside the plant's main gates weren't warmed by the long-term outlook.
"I'm worried if they declare bankruptcy, then they'll lose the pensions," said Judy Robbins, whose husband has been working at GM for more than 40 years.
Added Lori Chapman: "We're going to become a ghost town if something happens to GM."