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There are no new vehicles allocated for assembly at the two General Motors assembly plant in Oshawa, and production of two of four vehicles made there now ends next summer.Michelle Siu/The Canadian Press

The union representing workers at the endangered General Motors Co. assembly plants in Oshawa is urging local politicians and other community members to lobby the auto maker to keep the facility open, but stopped short of asking residents not to buy GM vehicles.

The union hopes GM sales continue to be strong in Oshawa and nationally and that it continues to build vehicles in the city, Colin James, president of Unifor local 222, said Tuesday.

Mr. James made his comments as leaders and members of the local stepped up a campaign ahead of bargaining on a new contract with GM later this summer. Members and retirees attended a news conference at the union hall in Oshawa, many clad in T-shirts reading: "We will strike."

There are no new vehicles allocated for assembly at the two plants and production of two of four vehicles made there now ends next summer. Union leaders believe GM wants to close the plants, which would eliminate 2,500 direct jobs – as well as more than 30,000 indirect jobs, according to a union-sponsored study – and mean the end of an era of auto making that has lasted about a century.

"Quite frankly, we see General Motors having an exit plan," said Greg Moffatt, chair of the Unifor 222 unit at the GM plants.

While the union isn't calling for a boycott of GM vehicles, closing the plants "would have huge ramifications for General Motors as a company in regard to sales in Canada," Mr. Moffatt said.

Canadian consumers will not support a company that received $10.8-billion in taxpayer money during the auto-industry bailout in 2008-09 and then closed a plant producing high-quality vehicles less than a decade later, he said.

"Canadian taxpayers did not bail out General Motors so they can move operations to Mexico," Mr. James added.

General Motors of Canada Ltd. president Stephen Carlisle has said no decisions on new products will be made until after negotiations. The decision on whether to allocate new vehicles to Oshawa also depends on government initiatives, Mr. Carlisle has said, including whether the federal government will change the terms of its Automotive Innovation Fund so that it offers grants to car companies instead of taxable, repayable loans.

In a community update issued Tuesday, he said the recent announcement of up to 750 new research and development jobs in Canada should not be interpreted as a sign that the auto maker is shifting its focus away from manufacturing in this country.

"With our new auto technology cluster emerging in Ontario, it's now all the more important to redouble our efforts to sustain the traditional mainstay of Canada's auto sector – auto assembly work," he wrote.

David Paterson, GM Canada's vice-president of corporate affairs, said the community update was not issued to respond to the union's statements that employees will go on strike if no new vehicles are allocated to the Oshawa plants during contract talks.

"We've said for a year and a half or more that the issues around Oshawa won't be decided until later this year after negotiations and that they're decided on many factors, not just negotiations alone," Mr. Paterson said.

One of the two plants in Oshawa produces the Chevrolet Equinox crossover and is scheduled to close in 2017, having lasted more than a decade beyond its original scheduled closing date.

The other plant makes the Chevrolet Impala, Cadillac XTS and Buick Regal sedans. Regal production ends next summer, there is no replacement scheduled for the XTS and the Impala is also assembled at a U.S. plant.