GM to reopen Oshawa plant to make trucks, hiring up to 2,500 workers, says union

General Motors will invest close to $1.3 billion to reopen its storied Oshawa plant, which was shuttered in 2018, and heavy-duty trucks will begin rolling off the assembly line by 2022, according to a tentative agreement reached in the wee hours of Thursday with its major union Unifor.

a sign on the side of a road: Oshawa's GM plant was shuttered in 2018.© Provided by Financial Post Oshawa’s GM plant was shuttered in 2018.

The reopening will ultimately employ between 2,000 and 2,500 people, according to Unifor president Jerry Dias.

“We never gave up hope and, frankly, neither did General Motors,” Dias said in a morning announcement of the tentative agreement. A vote will be held Sunday.

The plant will eventually make both heavy and light-duty trucks, including the Silverado and the Sierra, and is expected to have workers covering either two or three shifts.

Dias said the coronavirus pandemic has “thrown a curve into the auto industry” but may have helped secure the agreement with GM.

“Canada has always been a loyal customer for General Motors and they know that,” he said.

The Oshawa plant was once the dominant employer in the Ontario city east of Toronto, and, though fewer people had worked there in recent years, the 2018 announcement that the plant would close was devastating,

Dias said Unifor negotiated agreements with Chrysler and then with GM, covering operations in Woodstock and St. Catharines, Ontario, before taking on the “gorilla in the room” in Oshawa.

He said Thursday’s agreement was possible only because GM had agreed last year to maintain the “integrity of the shop” that had been reduced to making after-market parts and employing only about 300 union members.

“GM agreed to hit the pause button,” he said, adding that the initial work at the plant will include refurbishing the existing paint shop and building a new body shop.

The first shift is expected to start work in January 2022.

Navdeep Bains, the federal minister of innovation, science, and industry, was pleased to learn of the tentative agreement between GM and Unifor, according to his senior communications adviser John Power.

“Our Government has always been at the table to support Canadian auto workers — from investing in the sector to secure tens of thousands of jobs since 2015, to negotiating the new NAFTA, to creating a policy vision toward an all-Canadian electric vehicle supply chain from mining to battery manufacturing,” Power said.

“We have demonstrated that we are prepared to support the future of our auto sector.”