GM Workers Block Canadian Headquarters to Protest Layoffs

June 4, 2008
Workers say GM breached contract

Dozens of laborers on June 4 blocked the entrance to General Motors's Canadian headquarters to protest job cuts announced a day earlier, saying it is a "betrayal" of their contract.

The labor agreement signed three weeks ago freezes wages for three years at GM's assembly plants in Canada, and reduces benefits in a bid to cut costs amid slumping North American sales. In exchange for these concessions, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union said it was promised job security for its members.

The blockade "will remain as long as is required," said Chris Buckley, the local head of the CAW in Oshawa, Ontario, describing GM's decision to shut a truck assembly plant in the city as a "betrayal."

"I want General Motors to reverse their decision made yesterday or at least commit to another product going into that plant or face me eyeball to eyeball and justify why they breached a brand new agreement," he told public broadcaster CBC at the scene. The CAW reacted with anger at the announcement, saying GM had committed in contract talks to spare its workers for three years.

GM announced on June 3 plans to close four North American truck and sport utility vehicle plants, including one in Oshawa, and ramp up production of new fuel-efficient vehicles.

The company said it would impact 1,000 Canadian workers, but the union said the targeted plant employs 2,600.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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