CAW meeting with GM fails to resolve plant row

Tue Jun 17, 2008 5:22pm EDT
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By Matt Reeder

TORONTO (Reuters) - Talks between the Canadian Auto Workers union and General Motors of Canada on Tuesday ended without a resolution to their dispute over the closing of GM's Oshawa, Ontario, truck plant, union President Buzz Hargrove said on Tuesday.

"They were pretty clear, as of today, that the truck plant will close in the fall of '09," he said, adding later that a strike by the union is still a possibility.

The meeting, which included Hargrove and Dean Munger, executive director of labor relations for GM Corp North America, came a day after an Ontario court ordered an end to a 12-day blockade of GM's Canadian headquarters building by the union.

The company told the union on June 3 that it would close its Oshawa truck plant in late 2009, putting as many as 2,600 workers out of a job. The announcement came just two weeks after contract negotiations in which GM said it would keep the plant open until at least 2011.

Infuriated auto workers called the company's turnaround a "betrayal" and responded the next day by jamming the road leading to GM Canada's headquarters, blocking access and forcing more than 900 office employees to work from home.

While the Ontario court judge told the union to end what he called an illegal blockade, he also said GM acted with "almost deceitful behavior" in contract negotiations, which could make future bargaining difficult.

Hargrove emphasized the credibility issue when talking about a third car that GM said it was considering adding to its car plant in Oshawa.

"They held out the carrot again of talking about more car production," he said. "The problem we have with that, if we were agree to that today, and then go into Oshawa, our members would laugh at us, the community would laugh at us, the media would laugh at us. You just had a truck, you lost it, how can you have any credibility saying you can offset that loss by a new car production."   Continued...

<p>Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove talks to the media in the lobby of the General Motors headquarters in Detroit, Michigan June 6, 2008. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook</p>