Ontario judge expected to rule on GM blockade soon

Fri Jun 13, 2008 11:43am EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - An Ontario Superior Court judge is expected to rule on Friday whether the Canadian Auto Workers union will have to end their 10-day blockade of General Motors of Canada's GM.N headquarters and whether the CAW will have to pay C$1.5 million ($1.46 million) in alleged damages.

The autoworkers began their blockade after GM said it would close its Oshawa, Ontario, pickup truck plant in late 2009, putting 2,600 people out of work.

That was just two weeks after GM signed a collective agreement with the union, in which it agreed to keep the plant open at least until 2011.

At the hearing in Whitby, Ontario, just a short drive from Oshawa, GM has argued the blockade is illegal, forcing the 1,000 or so employees who work in the headquarters building to work from home or from temporary "satellite" locations.

The union argued the company bargained in bad faith and is violating the new labor agreement.

GM said it had no choice but to shutter the plant, along with two others in the United States and one in Mexico, as U.S. demand for pickup trucks has plummeted due to soaring gasoline prices and a soft U.S. economy.

The union has said it would obey the law if the court decides to allow the injunction.

The Oshawa truck plant produces the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra. GM's Oshawa complex also 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.

($1=$1.03 Canadian)

(Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Frank McGurty)