Unifor-Involved Worker Strike Results in Production Halt at General Motors Oshawa Plant

The battle between General Motors and Canadian worker unions persists in light of previously announced factory closures.

General Motors Canada was forced to stop production at its Oshawa, Ontario assembly plant on Friday as the result of a labor strike at the auto manufacturer’s seat supplier, Lear Works. Over 200 Lear employees walked off the job at 12:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday and the shutdown lasted until the next shift began at 2:30 p.m. 

The strike at Lear is part of the larger campaign by Unifor to keep GM from closing the Oshawa plant at the end of 2019. Unifor hopes to convince GM to extend production at the facility through September 2020, when the current union contract expires. The Oshawa plant closure was announced during GM’s restructuring in November. 

Like many automotive production facilities, Oshawa operates on the principles of just-in-time manufacturing, which means they keep a limited supply on-site and parts are typically delivered to the plant shortly before they are needed on the line. While this system usually offers many benefits to the manufacturing process, when a supplier shutdown such as this occurs, it can cause almost immediate issues. With a short shutdown such as this, the impact isn’t massive—especially considering the large surplus of Silverado dealer supply—but it nonetheless sent a message on the workers’ behalf. 

As of Feb. 1, GM had a 149-day supply of Silverado trucks for sale in the United States and production continued at the two other plants GM uses to produce the pickup and its GMC Sierra platform-mate. The Oshawa plant produces around 450 GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado trucks daily as well as 250 Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala models.

“The message that we’re sending is that it’s not just about General Motors’ workers. All the suppliers, including Lear Whitby, are impacted by a potential closure,” said Unifor Local 222 President Colin James in a statement to Reuters.

Production resumed at the Oshawa plant around 3:10 p.m., ending the nearly three hours long shutdown. GM did not say how big of an impact the shut down had on production numbers or whether it affected both car and truck production.