TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Auto Workers union ended its blockade of General Motors of Canada’s (GM.N) headquarters in Oshawa, Ontario on Monday, allowing about 900 employees to return to work after nearly 13 days of protest, but it vowed to fight on.
“This fight is far from over,” said Chris Buckley, president of CAW Local 222 in Oshawa. “The blockade has been taken down, as per the judge’s orders that were put in place, but just stay tuned,” he said, without elaborating.
An Ontario Superior Court judge ruled on Friday that the blockade, set up a day after GM said it would close its Oshawa truck plant in late 2009, was illegal and had to cease.
The judge added, however, that GM did not “come to court with clean hands,” and that it acted with “almost deceitful behavior,” which could make future bargaining between the two parties difficult.
The automaker’s announcement of the closure came just two weeks after signing a collective agreement with the union, in which it said it would keep the plant, which employs 2,600 unionized workers, open until at least 2011.
For that reason, the judge allowed the blockade to continue through the weekend. According to the ruling, the CAW can still picket the site, but must limit its protest to 20 picketers.
GM Canada spokesman Stew Low said the company is now looking forward.
“We will see what the next few days will bring. But clearly it is now time to focus on positive solutions,” he said.
The judge presiding over the case did not rule on the C$1.5 million ($1.46 million) in damages GM was seeking against the union local and five of its members, said Buckley, who was named in the suit.
“That will be dealt with as we go forward,” he said.
Part of the CAW’s blockade included a one-time convoy of about 200 vehicles which circled GM’s Oshawa complex - which includes the truck plant, a car plant and the headquarters building - causing a 45-minute production stoppage, GM said.
Union members employed at the plants have continued to show up for work throughout the protests and the CAW has said it didn’t believe now was a good time for a strike.
Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Bernadette Baum