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Jennifer Wells: GM stocks rise as Ontario unions rally against the automaker

Jennifer Wells: GM stocks rise as Ontario unions rally against the automaker
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As Unifor members took to the microphone in Windsor on Friday morning amidst a vibrant rally, railing against the planned closure of the Oshawa General Motors assembly plant, GM CEO Mary Barra took to the mic at the company’s capital markets day in Detroit to crow about the automaker’s performance and its plans for the future. At 11:15 a.m. the stock was up $2.84 from Thursday’s close.

Jerry Dias, the national president for Unifor, addresses a rally within view of General Motors headquarters on Friday in Windsor, Ont.  (Carlos Osorio / AP)

On the corporate side of the river: the primacy of “shareholder value.”

On the labour side of the river: the 2,500 autoworkers who will soon enough be out of work.

“Right across the water GM is holding an investor effort pitching its corporate greed direction,” bellowed Unifor’s Dave Cassidy, first to the mic before a sea of waving red Unifor flags. “Canada did not give you a bailout only for you to bail out of Canada.”

Over at GM headquarters Mary Barra noted reduced structural costs, considerable cash savings ($6 billion (U.S.) by the end of 2020) and announced that the Cadillac marque has been chosen as the automaker’s lead electric vehicle, underscoring GM’s commitment to restore Cadillac’s standing as a true luxury brand. The market was pleased.

This is the bifurcated backdrop against which Ontario Premier Doug Ford and federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains will travel to Detroit this week, meeting with GM representatives.

I can’t imagine that GM will be substantially moved.

For her part, Barra has somewhat smoothed political concerns in the U.S., which loses two assembly plants and two parts plants, through job transfers for dislocated workers. Of the 2,800 U.S. workers facing job loss south of the border, 1,500 have volunteered for transfer and 703 have already been reassigned — 418 from the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant and 285 from the Lordstown plant in Warren, Ohio — with the company pledging “a plan for every person.”

At Friday’s rally, OPSEU president Smokey Thomas made a shout out to Ford to “get off your lazy a—.” Which I guess is a call to find some political leverage this side of the border, where the plan for every person leans sorrily toward outplacement services.

I suspect that Unifor president Jerry Dias’ rebranding of General Motors as “Greedy Motors” isn’t going to help much.

What I’m getting at here, in a tortured way, is that Unifor made a public relations play on Friday, attempting to capitalize on the richness of the HQ proceedings in contrast with the dire straits at home.
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