TORONTO -- Canadian Auto Workers President Buzz Hargrove said on Tuesday he would team up with the Canadian prime minister to keep General Motors from closing a key plant and slashing thousands of jobs.
Hargrove said Prime Minister Paul Martin had called him on Monday after the world's largest automaker said it would cut about 3,900 jobs in Canada and shut its plant in Oshawa, Ontario.
"The prime minister of the country is interested and this is not just a union issue or a worker issue," Hargrove told Reuters. "The prime minister of the country understands the importance of it and he assured me he is going to help."
Hargrove said he hadn't yet identified the role the government would play in saving the Oshawa plant, but had asked the prime minister to contact top executives at General Motors and to express his concern.
The job cuts were part of a decision by GM to slash 30,000 jobs, about a quarter of its North American factory workforce, as it battles with stiff competition from auto companies in Japan and Europe.
During contract talks with GM in September, Hargrove said the company refused any commitment for product allocation at the Oshawa plant beyond 2008 due to the uncertainty it faced in the industry.
Hargrove said it was "very frustrating" that GM had swung from that reluctance to commit to its decision on Monday to close the plant, one of the most productive in North America.
Oshawa's Car Plant No. 1, which makes the Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo, will lose 1,000 jobs, 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. The company's plant in St. Catharines will see 130 jobs cut.
Hargrove said the job cuts at Plant No. 1 are expected to be absorbed through early retirement programs, but there was no way it could ease the blow of the plant's closure in 2008.
"We're going to fight like hell, we're going to lobby GM, we're going to lobby all levels of government and get everybody to try and get their arms together in solidarity and try to find a way to convince General Motors that this decision is the wrong decision," said Hargrove.