Parsing what GM means by closing ‘unallocated’ plants

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The grill and bumper assembly was installed in May 2009 on a Chevrolet Camaro at GM's assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

You are forgiven if you were a bit confused about what General Motors announced on Monday.

Instead of saying that it will close three car plants, GM said that the plants "will not be assigned in 2019."

These factories are in Oshawa, Ontario, Lordstown, Ohio and Detroit-Hamtramck, Michigan, which build six low-margin car models that will stop GM.

That means that the collapse of all three factories is imminent, right?

It is not that simple.

Let's start in the US If GM wants to close those plants from Ohio and Michigan, it can not just lock the doors tomorrow and throw away the keys. According to its collective agreement with the UAW, GM must negotiate the closure of those factories with the union.

As you can imagine, the UAW is not happy and calls the decision a slap in the face & # 39; in a statement. Expect the fate of those jobs to be at the forefront of contract negotiations next summer.

So while it looks bad for Lordstown and Hamtramck, all hope is not lost, especially as CEO Mary Barra of GM Monday refused to discuss whether the plants might reopen as part of the UAW negotiations.

Oshawa, however, is a different story.

It is indeed planned for closure. And one of the reasons for the certainty is that it is easier for the company to close a factory in Canada than in the contract with Unifor, which is the US on the basis of GM & # 39; s, the company does not need the trade union. only give a notice period of one year.

Document No. 12, added to the 2016 Master Agreement between the union and GM, explains:

"The parties have agreed that when management considers the implementation of restructuring actions that would result in permanent loss of jobs, the management will send a written notice [to the union.] In the case of a factory closure, the notification is given one (1) year in advance. "

Apparently that has not happened yet, but GM still has time. It plans to close Oshawa in December 2019.

Unifor President Jerry Dias made GM decide when we spoke Monday, calling it the ultimate betrayal & # 39; and promised a big fight with the company.

But the fact is that Dias, when it comes to factories with unassigned products, has much less influence on GM than its counterparts in the US.