What GM Workers in Canada Have to Say About Oshawa Plant Closing
(Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co.’s decision to pull production from its plant in Oshawa, Ontario next year left workers angry and stunned as they poured out of the plant in a chilly rain to protest the move. Below are some of their comments:
“I was shocked and I didn’t really sleep much last night,’’ George Balsdon, said as he marched out of the plant to protest the news with his union, Unifor. Balsdon does electrical checks on trucks at the plant and has been there for about seven years. “I’ve got a family to feed, I’ve got three kids to put through school.’’
For Darryl Donnithorne, a production worker who puts windshields on trucks at the plant, the news is a painful reminder of his past. He’s been working on and off there since 2002 and was laid off in 2008 when the company shut down the auto truck plant. He was just hired back a few months ago.
“There’s no future really, like I just started over again: I went through that in 2008 when they got rid of the auto truck plant, and at that point, I was ready to buy a house, I was 28, I had a great job, I got security, and that was all taken away from me and it just seems like I’m going through it again,’’ Donnithorne said. “Plan to take it one day at a time. Whatever happens, I got to work somewhere. So I’ll keep comin’ until they tell me not to come.’’
Donnithorne was born near the General Motors plant on Park Road South, and has seen the city suffer through iterations of closures.
“Since that last truck plant left, I’ve seen businesses go down, so many different things happen, it definitely affects the city for sure,’’ he said. “When you have a big business here booming, surrounding area booms, but if that slows down and there’s no more boom, then everything shuts down.’’ Oshawa “needs that boom again,’’ he said.
The news came at an especially bad time for Brian Smith, who works at Inteva Products LLC’s plant in Oshawa and is expecting his fourth child next week.
“Personally, this is very devastating as I am just about to have a baby next week and my wife is currently on EI and I already have 3 children so obviously this is going to be an impact to our lives, tremendously as far as monetary concerns go,’’ Smith said after Unifor’s townhall on the GM news on Monday. “If Oshawa does close down, then that means that Inteva will close down as well as many other feeder plants that supply GM.’’
Troy, Michigan-based Inteva opened its first Canadian facility in Oshawa eight years earlier, and supplies assembly parts to GM for certain vehicles. As devastating as it is, Smith isn’t too surprised -- his plant once had hundreds of people but that’s dwindled down to about 130, he said.
“This is a trickle effect that’s going to impact many peoples’ lives, many families’ lives. It is going to affect communities too and individuals all the way from Toronto, Oshawa, Peterborough and surrounding areas,’’ Smith said. “But being in the auto industry for 18 years, it’s not much of a surprise. I’ve been here before.’’
Timi Watson, born and raised in Oshawa, has been working on the assembly line at the car plant for 14 years. It’s in the family blood -- her sister also works at the company and her father retired from it. She holds out hope that the auto giant will choose to stay in the city.
“It’s heartbreaking, it makes you feel sick. A lot of us grew up together we’ve been doing this for 20 years. Lots of us went through the plant closure with the north plant. That was devastating but we knew we were coming here to have a job at GM, but this time, they close the plant, there’s nowhere to go.’’
For others, like Donnie Thoms and Eugen Weber, the news is an early retirement call.
“It’s out of our control and I’m a little disappointed at the way things happen today but nothing you can do about it really,’’ Thoms said with tears brimming at his eyes. He’s worked at the same plant for almost 36 years. “I was considering retiring but I’m very bad at making decisions like that when they’re so critical, and I just thought, well they’re basically making the decision for me.’’
“I’m assuming that because they’re going to shut this down, that it’s going to be wound down and that’ll be the end, so I’ll go into retirement,’’ Weber, 60, said. “I counted on that anyways. It’s just going to accelerate my plan a little bit.’’
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