by Hilary Clark Wednesday December 19, 2012

an assembly lineWednesday's program looks at the challenges facing Ontario manufacturing. It was recorded before the announcement from GM that they will be moving production of their Camaro model from Oshawa to Michigan. But the news from GM is actually quite indicative of many of the challenges and complexities we discuss during the program: even as they open new lines in Ontario to produce Cadillacs and Impalas, they're taking Camaro production out of the province. They say they want to consolidate like kinds of production under the same roof, apparently in this case rear wheel drive assembly, which GM does in Michigan. And while they promise to maintain their production commitments under the bailout agreement with the federal and Ontario governments, it’s not exacly clear what that means in terms of job losses. 

The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) blasted the move, saying it  “will cut between one third and one quarter of production in Oshawa and will occur in late 2015, early 2016.” CAW went on to call on GM to “replace the production on a one-to-one basis, ensuring that no jobs are lost.” Economies of scale, innovation, government investment and incentive, skilled workers and geography all in play at once. As tonight’s panel sketches out clearly, these core issues face the industry as a whole. How they respond, how we as a province and a workforce respond, will go a long way to deciding how important manufacturing remains to our economy.

Also, our second segment is about the new labour law that make unions dues optional in Michigan, which is exactly where the Camaro production line is headed. While it’s unlikely that measure had anything to do with the GM decision, it does reflect challenges to organized labour that are part of the backdrop when companies decide where to set up factories.