It’s been rumored for years, but it was made official on Monday of last week - the General Motors plant in Oshawa is losing production of the Camaro to Michigan, sometime before the end of 2015. Coupled with the forecasted shut-down of the consolidated line (which produces the Equinox and some models of the Impala) in 2016 - Oshawa will be reduced to only producing the Buick Regal, some models of the Impala, and the Cadillac ATS.
While the cost-savings and accounting behind the decision are sound, the future of the plant will remain up in the air for the time being.
I remember the pride that many GM workers felt when Oshawa got the Camaro contract - and I was one of the crowd who stopped and wandered over to the dyno when the first Camaro ZL1 was fired up in the plant - but all good things must come to an end, and the important part is what’s to come.
As a former GM employee, and as the son, grandson, cousin, and brother of GM employees - I’ve heard it all before. Rumors of GM closing, enforcing massive lay offs, or just ‘nailing the doors shut’ seem to circulate every six-months or so - often with little change to be seen, but the decline in market share for the ‘big three’ manufacturer has been steady over the past few years.
Should the plant not receive a new production model and the plant close - Durham Region will lose one of its largest employers, and largest tax-payers. The results could send ripples as far as Scugog, Uxbridge and Brock, leading to increased taxes and less money flowing into the local economy.
As a saving grace, Oshawa and Durham Region as a whole have diversified in recent years - and will have a vibrant college/university, tourism, arts and power generation industries to fall back on. This won’t spell a Detroit-like end of Durham Region, but if the stars align in just the wrong way, it could mean an economic downturn for the area.
“What does the future hold?” was one of the questions I asked Ron Svajlenko, president of the local Unifor 222 union, this week. He told me that enduring optimism is the way forward. He validated the fears that some union members have voiced, but assured me that the union is dead-set on negotiating for a new product, and keeping a two in the VIN plates of as many vehicles as possible.
Mr. Svajlenko told me that the reduction could add up to as many as 1,250 jobs in total - having an immediate impact on the Region of Durham as a whole. Far from dramatic, I predict that many of these lost jobs won’t come from employees thrown into the streets, but from retirement and a lack of summer student positions.
While my time working in the plant has come to an end, the opportunity to work as a student and earn some good money on the midnight shift helped to pay off my student loans, and even afford the camera gear which I used to advance in my current career.
As I write this, I remember that the Chevy Impala I drove to work this morning was assembled, maintained, and even re-built by my father - the true definition of a family car.
While the beige colour of my Impala may not be my favourite, and people still slam on their brakes when they see me in the rear-view (because I look like I’m driving an unmarked cop car in the right light) - I’m still proud to call it my own, and say that it was built by my family.
While the leadership’s “take the bailout and run” policies have left a sour taste in the mouth of many - it’s important to remember that nothing is set in stone, and negotiations between the union and headquarters are a constant endeavor.
For better or for worse, I forecast that Durham Region will endure and see a change in the local economy drivers, despite this bump in the road. It might be nice to see what else Durham has to offer put in the spotlight.
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is a photographer, journalist and jack-of-all-trades at your Standard Newspaper! You may have seen him around taking photos and asking questions, if not, here's hoping you meet soon. He grew up in both Oshawa/Courtice and Caesarea, back and forth. Scugog has always been an important part of his life.