DETROIT -- General Motors told angry union leaders for Canada's auto workers that it will respond by Jan. 7 to their proposals to keep an Ontario assembly plant open.
While GM has "gone too far" in planning to close the plant, the U.S. automaker didn't "slam the door" to union efforts to save it, Unifor President Jerry Dias told reporters after meeting Thursday with GM executives in Detroit.
Earlier on Thursday, Unifor union slammed GM executives in print ads over the Oshawa, Ontario, plant idling just hours before the meeting at the company's Renaissance Center headquarters.
The union's four full-page ads in The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, including the covers, accuse GM executives of a lack of support toward Canadian and U.S. plant workers for their decision in November to potentially close Oshawa Assembly and four plants in the U.S.
The potential closures are part of a larger corporate restructuring plan. The Canadian plant builds the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS sedans, both of which GM plans to eliminate from its North American lineup.
One of the full-page ads illustrates the union's frustration toward the automaker's executives, with a bold headline that says, "U.S. and Canadian workers made GM," that follows with the question, "Why should our jobs and our products go to Mexico? Keep our plants open." However, no such ads can be found in the Toronto Star or the Windsor Star, both reputable Canadian newspapers.
"The GM restructuring decisions are extremely difficult for all of us in Oshawa, but we believe the best approach is to work together to support our employees including support for local training and transition initiatives in the Durham Region," GM said in an emailed statement on Thursday. "We remain strongly committed to Canada and will continue to engage in dialogue with Unifor."
Dias said the ads were about sending a message to GM ahead of today’s meeting.
“GM needs to know that we are not accepting their announcement,” Dias said. “It is crystal clear to myself and the leadership of the union that GM is leaving Canada. The newspaper ads are to let them know we are dead serious.”
In a Thursday news release, GM Canada said it was “committed to Canada and we are not going anywhere,” pointing to continued operations at CAMI Assembly in Ingersoll, Ont., and at its engine and transmission plant in St. Catharines, Ontario.
“There are no plans for operating changes at those operations at this time,” the release reads.
The union plans on advertising against the union from “coast-to-coast” in both Canada and the U.S., Dias said. He said the countries “have a lot in common,” pointing to federal bailouts both nations gave the automaker a decade ago and manufacturing jobs that have left the counties. Through its aggressive ad campaign, Unifor wants to show GM that it will have “a real problem” selling new vehicles to consumers on either side of the border in 2019, Dias said.
“GM has betrayed consumers in Canada and the United States,” he said. “People are finally saying to GM, ‘You have gone too far.’ This is going on on both sides of the border.”
He said Unifor has been in contact with the UAW as it has planned its response to GM, and leaders from the unions are set to meet early in the new year.
TV ad campaign
Unifor also kicked its Canadian advertising campaign into high gear. The union said it plans on airing commercials during sporting events, including an ad scheduled to run during Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks hockey games Thursday.
“Canadian taxpayers gave General Motors nearly $11 billion in a bailout,” the union says in the commercial. “How do they thank us? With betrayal, announcing plans to shut down the Oshawa plant and put thousands out of work.”
In its Thursday news release, GM Canada appeared to hit back at the union, saying it had “repaid all of its loans and has fulfilled or surpassed all the terms” of the federal and provincial bailouts.
“The government support enabled GM to continue its Canadian operations after 2009 and helped manage the Canadian economy through the 2009 financial crisis,” the news release reads.
According to a news release, Unifor’s TV ad buys are concentrated on sports and news programming. It said the union also took out space on digital billboards in the Toronto area, advertisements on southern Ontario radio stations and is targeting ads on social media to those living in the province.