CAW members in Oshawa Ontario spent two week barricading General Motors’ headquarters this month after the company said it would close a truck plant and eliminate 2600 jobs.
The workers have seen hard times before, but the occupation of the office is something new.
Why the outrage? Because, as CAW president Buzz Hargrove wrote in the Toronto Star, GM crossed a moral line.
Two weeks earlier, the company signed a collective agreement committing to operate the plant for three more years.
The plant, one of GM’s most efficient and productive, was making pickup trucks, including the first hybrid vehicle built in Canada.
It says a lot about the state of Canada’s manufacturing sector and the auto industry, that GM would close a profitable plant.
CAW economist Jim Stanford told the National Post, “We could work for free in Canada and we’d still be losing jobs.”
While we condemn General Motors’ “almost deceitful” practice of making agreements it does not intend to keep, we also direct our outrage at the Steven Harper government and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
Stanford predicts that Harper’s government will be the first to leave office with productivity lower than when he started.
And Harper’s neo-conservative economics demonstrates its oil patch origins. While his government hands $8 billion a year to subsidize the oil and gas industry, the manufacturing sector bleeds jobs and laid off workers are told not to worry because our economic fundamentals are sound.
The GM workers in Oshawa were calling for the return of performance requirements, where companies would have to make one car in Canada for every car they wanted to sell here.
At its May convention, the CLC adopted an action plan that called for the government to cancel treaties like NAFTA that outlaw the sorts of economic policies that governments used to use to support economic development.
We know our economic fundamentals are not sound. Former factory workers who have had to get two or three part time jobs to make ends meet know Canada’s economic fundamentals are not sound.
We are proposing other ways of building an economy. We need a government motivated to do the same.