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Long-time Oshawa GM employee hopes to ‘pass the torch’ to young workers

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WATCH: A former GM employee says he doesn't plan to return to the Oshawa plant, despite the fact hundreds of jobs are returning.

A former employee of General Motors says several workers don’t plan on returning to the Oshawa plant, despite the fact hundreds of jobs are returning.

Billy Kudla, who worked at the facility for 34 years, says he’s made that decision because he believes “it’s time for the younger people to take over.”

“I believe that we have a responsibility as we get to a point where we can earn a pension, we can survive through our elder years, that we have a responsibility to pass the torch to the younger people,” he said.

Read more: GM says pickup truck production will return to Oshawa plant with new Unifor deal

Kudla says since the financial crisis in 2008, things “have not really been nice” at the plant.

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“The car market crashed and we took a big hit for that. For me, that was the beginning of a real tough fight to maintain jobs.”

Ontario Tech student Bilal Ansari, 21, moved from Dubai to Oshawa with dreams of one day working at the GM plant. He specifically chose to attend the university as it offered a specialized program in automotive engineering.

“I knew that Ontario was the hub for automotive (because) they have GM and they also have Honda and Toyota,” Ansari said.

Initially, the student was devastated when the company announced in 2018 it would be shutting down the Oshawa assembly line. However, now that GM is planning to bring back about 1,700 jobs, the student has a renewed sense of hope.

Read more: Despite Unifor deal with GM, Oshawa continues with green, tech-driven plans

“When the news came out I was so excited, so happy to see the jobs coming.”

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Oshawa GM assembly plant to reopen, build trucks – Nov 5, 2020

Komayl Jawadi is on track to graduate from the same program as Ansari in 2021. He feels grateful older workers like Kudla are stepping back so the younger generation has a chance to join the workforce.

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“It’s humbling because it’s kind of like a passing of the torch, and kind of like it’s our turn to (turn) this production facility around and bring it back to life,” Jawadi said.

He says Kudla’s offer is even more meaningful as it comes at a time where students say they have been feeling anxious about finding a job during the pandemic.

Read more: Unifor members vote in favour of new 3 year General Motors contract

“It is concerning but of course,” he said.

“With this new GM plant, here’s to hoping some of us can find a job eventually.”