Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

GM closed the Oshawa assembly line, seen here in November, 2018, last year, putting about 3,000 people out of work.

Eduardo Lima/Canadian Press

General Motors Co. will reopen its vehicle assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., to meet rising demand for pickup trucks, spending as much as $1.3-billion to retool the factory it closed last year.

The first vehicles, GM’s best-selling GMC Sierras and Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks, will roll off the line at the plant east of Toronto in 14 months, employing as many as 2,300 people beginning next summer, said Jerry Dias, national president of the Unifor union.

GM closed the Oshawa assembly line last year, putting about 3,000 people out of work as the car maker shut down other plants in the United States and stopped making poorly selling vehicles in a push toward hybrid and electric models. The sprawling Oshawa site has remained largely empty, making after-market car parts and pandemic face masks with 300 workers.

Story continues below advertisement

The company said its new models of pickups are highly popular now, and refitting the plant to make more of the trucks will help it meet the increase in demand.

“We never gave up hope and neither did General Motors,” Mr. Dias said. “I know many of our members have suffered. Many have moved on. Many have not found new jobs. So today is an incredible victory for all of us.”

Most of the money will come from GM, Mr. Dias said, and there are talks with the federal and Ontario governments about taxpayer contributions similar to those announced recently for Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler’s Ontario plants.

Dan Carter, mayor of Oshawa, said he has been in frequent touch with GM executives and Unifor, lobbying government and pitching ideas in hopes the plant would see new purpose and the jobs would return. But it wasn’t until he received a cryptic text from a GM executive at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday that said he was about to become the “happiest mayor in Canada” that he realized the assembly line would reopen.

The jobs will provide an economic and psychological boost to the city and region, which has watched thousands of good-paying auto jobs move to Mexico and other low-cost areas.

“I’m just absolutely ecstatic about the announcement,” Mr. Carter said by phone. “Especially with COVID-19, a lot of people have been impacted economically. We’ve always had a great spirit of overcoming hurdles in the past, but this announcement at this time in this historical moment will play a significant role in how people feel right now, and how they see the future.”

Construction work at the factory will begin immediately, including a body shop and a flexible assembly line. “Pickups are GM’s largest and most important market segment in Canada and across the continent,” said Scott Bell, GM Canada’s president. “They also help GM fund our transition to the electric, autonomous and highly connected future we see ahead.”

Story continues below advertisement

The announcement is part of Unifor’s three-year collective agreement with GM, subject to ratification by members, that includes new investments at the St. Catharines and Woodstock facilities. Union members will vote on the deal on Sunday.

The news caps a round of negotiations between Unifor and the three Detroit-based car makers. It has resulted in collective agreements that secure large investments and new vehicle production for plants whose futures have been in doubt. Ford said it will spend $1.8-billion to retool its Oakville plant to build battery-electric vehicles. Fiat Chrysler will invest about $1.3-billion to make hybrid and plug-in vehicles in Windsor, Ont.

“Not bad - bargain $5-billion during a pandemic,” Mr. Dias said of the total spending commitments by the automakers. “I’ve been watching the industry and I know they are moving toward electric vehicles. We needed to get a footprint here in Canada so we can start to develop a supply base for electric vehicles. But we needed a short-term solution in Oshawa … and that’s going to be pickup trucks. Then we’ll start talking about what the future looks like.”

Brian Kingston, head of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, said recent commitments to Ontario by the three U.S.-based companies represent about $4.8-bilion in spending and 3,700 new jobs in a pandemic that has done vast economic and public health damage. This is a recognition, he said, of Ontario’s long history of making vehicles, its skilled work force, strong supply chain, access to the U.S. market and governments' willingness to spend taxpayer money to ensure auto plants provide well-paid work.

“Ontario is not going to compete with a jurisdiction like Mexico on labour costs, but we have other advantages,” Mr. Kingston said.

Flavio Volpe, head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, credited the new auto plant investments in Ontario to provisions in the recently renegotiated North American free-trade agreement, now known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The pact, effective in July, 2020, expanded levels of tariff-free local auto content to 75 per cent from 62 per cent, which requires car makers to source more parts locally.

Story continues below advertisement

The old Oshawa plant made Chevrolet Impala sedans and finished pickup trucks, but the new one will completely assemble trucks, “the entire enchilada,” Mr. Dias said. “There will be government money, but those conversations are just starting,” he said by phone.

John Power, a spokesman for Industry Minister Navdeep Bains, declined to comment on federal aid for GM, but said, “we have demonstrated that we are prepared to support the future of our auto sector.”

GM said it will hire 1,400 to 1,700 hourly workers on two shifts for the new plant, on top of the 300 working on after-market parts. Mr. Dias said 175 people on layoff will be recalled, and he has been told of a possible third shift, which would add another few hundred jobs.

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies