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Canada and United States urged to work together to fight GM plant closing


A defiant union leader is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump to work together on an “aggressive” strategy to force General Motors to reverse plans to cease production in Oshawa and four other plants in the United States.
Jerry Dias, the national president of Unifor that represents some 2,500 workers at the Oshawa plant, called for punishing tariffs on General Motors vehicles produced in Mexico and labour action in both Canada and the U.S. to get the company’s attention.
“We’re playing with a corporation that plays by its own rules,” Dias told reporters on Parliament Hill.
“If you’re going to have a company that’s going to show us their middle finger, then I think our governments should show them their middle finger as well,” he said.
Dias warned that the stakes are high. General Motors has already moved production of five vehicles out of Canada — four of those to Mexico — and closure of the Oshawa plant will only leave one GM vehicle produced in the country, he said.
“GM is on the cusp of complete disinvestment in Canada and will lead to a catastrophic end to Canada’s most lucrative export industry,” he said.
“We are not going to let our plant close. Our plant in Oshawa is not closing and we will do whatever it takes to make sure our plant in Oshawa doesn’t close,” said Dias, who will be in the U.S. on Wednesday for meetings with his counterparts at the United Auto Workers.
General Motors announced on Monday that it intended to halt production in Oshawa and four facilities in the U.S. by the end of 2019 as part of a transformation to refocus its lineup on crossovers, SUVs and trucks and zero emissions vehicles.
News of the plant closures rippled in Washington and Ottawa on Tuesday. Trump took a hard line, saying he was “very disappointed” that plants were closing in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland and vowed possible reprisals.
“Nothing being closed in Mexico & China. The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get! We are now looking at cutting all @GM subsidies, including for electric cars,” Trump said on Twitter.
“General Motors made a big China bet years ago when they built plants there (and in Mexico) — don’t think that bet is going to pay off. I am here to protect America’s Workers!” the president said.
Trump and Trudeau spoke Tuesday about the plant closings, expressing disappointment at the decision and “underscored their concerns for the workers, families, and communities affected,” according to a readout of the conversation provided by the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Prime Minister’s Office gave no hint whether the federal government intended to work with the U.S. administration on the issue.