GM Canada blockade continues ahead of meeting

Thu Jun 5, 2008 7:34pm EDT
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian autoworkers blocked the road leading to General Motors of Canada's headquarters in Oshawa, Ontario, for a second day on Thursday, protesting against plans to shut a truck plant as company officials and labor leaders prepared to meet on Friday.

Hundreds of workers and their supporters have been on site both days, with some spending the night in tents. The protest has been peaceful so far.

GM has said it understands the workers are upset and will not interfere with the protest. About 1,000 people work at GM Canada's head office, and it has asked them to work from home.

With U.S. sales of pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles slumping, GM said on Tuesday it would shutter its Oshawa truck plant, which employs 2,600 workers, in September 2009. The Canadian Auto Workers union says that violates the contract the two sides signed just last month.

CAW President Buzz Hargrove said the union is exploring all its options, and did not rule out a strike.

"We believe General Motors is obligated by law and otherwise to live up to this agreement," he said on Thursday.

Hargrove, along with the CAW's GM bargaining committee from Oshawa, will meet GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner and leaders from GM Canada in Detroit on Friday to discuss the matter.

The CAW has three complaints. It said GM committed to keep the Oshawa truck plant open until the new labor agreement expires in 2011; that the company agreed to continue building hybrid versions of two pickup trucks in Oshawa; and that it agreed to a new investment in 2011 that would launch the next generation of half-ton trucks.   Continued...

<p>Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton (L) talks to protesters with NDP Labour Critic Paul Miller (R) outside General Motors' headquarters in Oshawa, Ontario June 4, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill</p>