GM Canada and autoworkers in court over blockade
TORONTO (Reuters) - The fate of the blockade of General Motors of Canada's headquarters in Oshawa, Ontario by the Canadian Auto Workers union, now in its ninth day, is in the hands of a judge on Thursday.
GM is arguing for an injunction to end the action and for C$1.5 million ($1.47 million) in compensation from the Oshawa local of the CAW and five of its members.
Shortly after the case began in a Whitby, Ontario, court room, several hundred Canadian autoworkers and their supporters kicked off a "solidarity" rally near the Oshawa truck plant that GM plans to close late next year.
The plant, which employs 2,600 union members, is one of four in North America GM plans to shutter as it shifts its focus to producing more fuel efficient vehicles in response to changing customer demand as gasoline prices soar.
GM announced the September 2009 closure about a week-and-a-half ago, just two weeks after it signed a three-year labor agreement with the CAW in which it said it would keep the plant open until 2011.
That set off cries of betrayal from the union and the blockade of GM Canada's headquarters, which has forced about 1,000 GM office staff to work from home.
A high-level meeting between CAW leadership and top GM officials in Detroit last Friday was fruitless, the union said.
The CAW ramped up its protests the following day, halting production at GM's Oshawa complex for about 45 minutes by way of a convoy of hundreds of cars that slowly circled the plants, preventing shipments from coming or going.
Aside from the truck plant, which produces the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra, the complex includes a car plant where the Chevrolet Impala is currently built and the Camaro is set to begin production. The province of Ontario has said it is in discussions with GM about adding a third car to that line.
(Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Frank McGurty)
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