After churning out General Motors vehicles for more than a century, the automaker’s assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario, has reached the end of the line.
Workers put the finishing touches on the final vehicle — a 2019 GMC Sierra LD pickup — Wednesday, ending auto assembly at the venerable factory for good. The line stopped producing vehicles at approximately 4 p.m. EST, according to tweets that appeared to originate from within the plant.
A GM Canada spokeswoman said she didn’t know the exact time production ceased but confirmed about an hour later that output had stopped earlier in the day.
One of the final trucks assembled — a 2019 GMC Sierra SLE double-cab light-duty pickup — was raffled off among employees, who raised $117,000 for Durham Region Children’s Aid Foundation. It was one last charitable act by union members.
The factory remained on a life support for more than a year after GM announced its closure. The automaker shipped unfinished outgoing models of GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickups to the factory from a plant in Indiana. Employees in Oshawa would complete final assembly of the vehicles, the majority of which were shipped back for sale in the United States.
On Tuesday, people who identified themselves as GM Oshawa employees posted photos on Facebook of what they said was the final frame shipped to Oshawa from Indiana. Members of the UAW in Indiana sent a message of support along with the frame: “Thanks Sisters and Brothers at Oshawa…All The Best! EH!!!!” read a banner on the rank carrying the frame.
GM will now start the process of converting the plant into a stamping operation for its other factories. A test track for autonomous and connected vehicles will also be built on the Oshawa property, northeast of Toronto.
The company said in a statement this week that new operations are “targeted to begin toward the end of Q1 next year.”
The closure will throw about 2,300 employees out of work and affect thousands more in the supply chain. About 300 GM employees will remain at the plant to perform stamping work.
Roy Eagen is one of the workers out of a job.
“It was rough, it was pretty depressing,'' he told The Canadian Press of watching the last truck frame go down the line. “The people all kind of gathered together in there, we kind of held each other together and just proudly stood there and watched it go down the line.”
“This is a tough week,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said in a statement. “This is a tough week for our members that work at General Motors; it’s a tough week for our members that work for the parts suppliers; it’s a tough week for non-union workers; and it’s an incredibly tough week for the community of Oshawa.
"The timing couldn't be worse. We're less than two weeks before Christmas."
General Motors Canada has been assisting employees who don’t qualify for full retirement packages in finding work.
"The employee base that we've had over the years has accomplished so much, and we owe it to them to help them transition as best we can," David Paterson, vice-president of corporate affairs at GM Canada, told The Canadian Press.
Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter tweeted that “we will get through this together as a community.”
“We thank our employees for the pride and commitment that has gone into every vehicle that’s rolled off the Oshawa Assembly line,” GM Canada said in a statement. “We wish you well in retirement and new careers and look forward to working with those who will continue in the new parts operation that is poised for growth.”