February 21, 2019 / 11:39 PM / 9 months ago

GM CEO will not appear before Canada legislators on plant closure

FILE PHOTO: General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra speaks at GM's press conference at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

TORONTO (Reuters) - General Motors Co Chief Executive Mary Barra will not come before Canadian legislators to answer questions about the automaker’s future in the country, but lower-ranking executives will appear, a lawmaker said on Thursday.

GM said in November it would close its Oshawa, Ontario, assembly plant by year-end, part of a broad restructuring affecting four other plants in the United States, as it cuts costs and invests in electric and self-driving vehicles.

Last month, the Canadian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology approved Vice Chairman Brian Masse’s request for Barra to “explain GM’s future and continued commitment to the Canadian automotive and manufacturing industry.”

Barra’s “complex schedule wouldn’t allow her to be there in a reasonable period of time,” said GM spokesman David Paterson. He added that two “subject matter experts” - GM Canada President Travis Hester and Vice President of North American Manufacturing Gerald Johnson - would likely appear before the committee in March.

Masse, a member of the opposition New Democrats, said it was frustrating that Barra would not attend because she is the “principal strategist” behind GM’s restructuring and could explain why Oshawa did not merit investment.

“We need to understand the future jobs and commitment of General Motors because we need to better understand how we fit in their global operations,” Masse said.

Canada’s auto union, which represents 2,600 assembly line workers in Oshawa and 1,800 workers at plants supplying the operation, has waged a high-profile campaign aimed at convincing GM to keep the plant open until September 2020, when the current collective agreement ends.

GM Canada has said repeatedly it will not change its business decision.

An Ontario Labour Relations Board hearing on Thursday reviewed an application by GM to halt “unlawful strike activity.” A decision was expected shortly.

Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Peter Cooney

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