Nearly 100 Whitby, Ont., autoworkers walked off the job Tuesday not only to stand in solidarity with their “brothers and sisters” at the nearby General Motors plant but also to try to save their own jobs.
Many employees at Inteva Products waved their red Unifor flags near the Wentworth Street facility Tuesday morning to protest GM’s decision to, as it announced last year, “unallocate” the Oshawa, Ont., plant in December.
The president of the union representing many of the Oshawa plant’s autoworkers estimates the planned closure will cost Durham Region more than 5,000 jobs, including 200 at Inteva. The Whitby location of the international company directly supplies auto products to the GM plant in the neighbouring municipality.
“This is obviously an attempt to … get GM’s attention to, hopefully, reverse (its) decision,” Brian Smith-Ramirez, the union chairperson at Inteva in Whitby, said of the protest.
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The vice-president of General Motors Canada says protests like this one are “irresponsible” actions.
“It’s one thing to take on GM,” David Paterson said. “But to actually … hurt other businesses (is another).”
He adds that the closure won’t affect these businesses to the extent Unifor has been saying it will. Paterson said GM’s suppliers “don’t supply only to General Motors.”
Smith-Ramirez says his wife Michelle is off work on employment insurance right now, as they had their baby daughter, Alyssa, a month and a half ago.
“If I lose my job then we’re going to have to, obviously, figure out what it is that we will have to do,” said Smith-Ramirez, who is also the second vice-president of Unifor Local 1090.
He says many people who work at Inteva will be in a similar position if the facility closes since there are many couples working at the Whitby branch.
“It’s very sad,” said Jan Kowalczyk, who works there as a forklift operator and whose wife, Margaret Kowalczyk, assembles parts of GM vehicles. “I never (expected) to lose my job.”
Global News visited inside of the Inteva Products building and asked management for comment. They referred Global to its communications team, which has yet to send an official response.