BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: Following a landmark announcement, which confirmed the loss of the Camaro from production at GM Oshawa last week, many in Durham Region are curious about the economic impact which reductions at the plant could have across the Region, and what it could mean for the economy of North Durham.
GM Canada has been building cars in Oshawa for over a century, but with the Camaro being moved to a plant in Lansing, Michigan, coupled with no new vehicle models scheduled for the consolidated line (which produces the Equinox and fleet Impala) the future of this iconic facility has been called into question. While the plant will retain the Buick Regal and the Cadillac XTS - future loss projections range from a few hundred jobs, to total shut down of the local auto sector.
The Standard obtained a report prepared by Robin Somerville of The Centre for Spatial Economics (C4SE), an independent economic modeling firm - for the uses of Unifor Local 222, which represents the auto workers of GM Oshawa.
The study examines the overall economic impact of GM's Oshawa complex – including its 3,600 hourly production workers and an estimated 500 salaried staff whose jobs are tied to manufacturing production there. Many of which are held by residents of Durham Region, and its northern municipalities.
The analysis considers the direct GDP produced in the facility, the indirect impact on auto parts and other supply industries and the economic activity stemming from the spending and re-spending of workers' wages. It finds that if the Oshawa complex closed entirely, Canada's GDP would shrink by more than $5 billion per year within two years. A total of 22,000-24,000 jobs would be lost immediately, with close to 33,000 jobs lost in Ontario within two years.
After reviewing the information, The Standard spoke to local figureheads - hoping to gain their reaction to the news.
Durham’s MPP, Granville Anderson, has stated that the Provincial government is aware of the impact which a shut down could have across Ontario - and that “There is no question that we, as a government, will work closely with GM and the union, Unifor, in an attempt to maintain GM’s strong role here.”
Looking towards the future, MPP Anderson is banking on the diversity of industry found within Durham - and each of its member municipalities.
“I can’t comment on hypothetical situations or outcomes,” said MPP Anderson. “I can say I know the Region of Durham and its member municipalities have, as the Province has, worked hard to strengthen and diversify the economy to reduce reliance on single and specific industries. I think there’s a great deal of room for optimism.”
Safe in the knowledge that GM has to complete negotiations with Unifor 222, before they can make any final decisions - MPP Anderson is hopeful for continuing investment into Ontario’s auto industry. He cited a recent $560 Million investment from GM to their Ingersoll plant.
Scugog’s Regional Councillor, Bobbie Drew, sat down with The Standard to offer her thoughts on the matter - which she said had been on the books since 2012, and did not come as a shock to the Regional government.
“While it is certainly a concern, the Province and Federal Government have met with the presidents of GM to safeguard Durham Region,” said Councillor Drew. “It’s important to note that many of the lost jobs that have been named will be due to attrition and retiring - and Unifor has stated that a younger workforce will be hired in the future.”
Stating that the auto industry has experienced similar scares before, Councillor Drew explained that she is hopeful a new product line will come down the pipes for GM Oshawa - to replace the lost models.
“As for the future impact, the loss of the Camaro and the pending reduction of the consolidated line could have an effect, but all levels of government are keeping there eyes on this before it becomes a major problem. We’re not ready to panic yet,” explained Councillor Drew.
The Standard reached out to Ron Savjlenko – President of Unifor Local 222 - in an attempt to gain the feelings of those on the production lines. Mr. Savjlenko expressed a lack of definite timelines on when the Camaro will be leaving production, but noted that it’s possible the piece of ‘American Muscle’ could still be rolling out of the plant in December of this year.
“The loss of 850 Jobs will be the direct and immediate impact from the loss of the Camaro alone, but there will be an immediate trickle down of almost 1,250 jobs in areas around Oshawa – and a loss in income and property taxes,” said Mr. Savjlenko. “Unifor is focused on getting a replacement vehicle ready for production, to make use of our award-winning workers and very diverse factory lines.”
Remaining a self-described ‘permanent optimist’, Mr. Savjlenko hopes to see a new production model being produced at GM Oshawa within the next 18 to 24 months.
“Some of the recent decisions which GM has made have been questionable,” said Mr. Savjlenko. “But I can understand the dollars and cents behind moving the Camaro to an under-used plant in Michigan, which builds on the same chassis – it’s not a slight to our workers.”
Perhaps summing the sentiment of the plant workers, and government leaders, Mr. Savjlenko added that this loss of production is ‘just a bump in the road’, and that the full impact will only be known in the next couple of months, or the next couple of years.
The full economic impact report can be viewed on-line at www.Local222.ca, under the ‘News & Events’ tab.
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