April 22, 2019

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Pain and Sense of Betrayal as Canada G.M. Factory Closes After a Century

Pain and Sense of Betrayal as Canada G.M. Factory Closes After a Century
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Most of Canada’s other assembly plants, including a G.M. factory that will remain open, are west or north of the country’s largest city, Toronto, along highways providing direct and easy links to Michigan and Ohio. Oshawa sits on the other side of Toronto, along an infamously congested corridor.

“This is like a 100-year-old grandma dying,” Mr. Mordue said. “It’s sad but it is not surprising.”

It takes relatively little effort to find G.M. employees in Oshawa who are third- and sometimes even fourth-generation members of their family to work for the company.

Even with the closing, the company won’t completely disappear from the city. Its Canadian headquarters will remain on the edge of town, and it also has an engineering center in the city that researches alternative-fuel vehicles.

After the company’s troubles in 2008, much of its work force was reduced through early retirements. But there are comparatively few older workers in the Oshawa plant today. Unifor estimates the average age of current workers is between 30 and 40 and that they have just 15 years of service, far too little for anything approaching a full pension.

Scott Aquanno, a political scientist at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, who has studied previous G.M. layoffs, said the local economy’s diversity — many people commute to jobs in and around Toronto — will help buffer the effects of the layoffs. But he said those left jobless will find it difficult, if not impossible, to find work with similar pay and benefits.

Timothy Martin, the 33-year-old son of a 32-year veteran of G.M., was only hired full time this year. Sitting in special coveralls with flaps to prevent its zippers from scratching the pickup trucks on which he installs airbags and wiring, Mr. Martin said that he was confident he would find work in the construction trades, but added he was still worried for the city’s future in the wake of the closings.

“Oshawa has a dark underbelly,” he said. “I don’t want to see how dark it can get.”

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