Former Windsor GM employees empathize with Oshawa workers
There are many people in Windsor-Essex who know all too well what people in Oshawa are going through with the announcement of the closure of the General Motors plant.
Windsor's GM trim plant closed in 2008. Two years later, its transmission plant shut down, leaving 1,500 people out of work.
Ken Bruner worked at Windsor's GM plant for 31 years.
"It's numbing, it really is numbing," remembers Bruner.
Bruner lost his job at the age of 51 and was part of the negotiating committee when the automaker left Windsor 10 years ago.
"More shock than anything and where do I go from here," he says.
The same feelings thousands of employees are likely experiencing in Oshawa after GM announced the closure of its plant.
"Everyone likes to say Oshawa builds the best products,” says Burner. “They have all the awards. They do. But in Windsor, we had all the awards, we made all kinds of money, but at the end of the day it didn't matter."
GM’s announcement is also affecting Windsor's neighbours.
Four plants in the U.S. will close, putting 3,300 Americans out of work, a move that doesn't surprise auto news editor Nick Bunkley.
"The plants in Michigan and Ohio have been on one shift for a while now.
Detroit mayor Mike Duggans released a statement saying the “news is troubling.”
“We all know there is a strong demand for manufacturing space in Detroit and we are willing to work with GM to fill all of the available manufacturing space at poletown with either GM-related entities or other companies."
The closures are expected to impact thousands of spinoff jobs.
Romeo Tilo has worked as a manufacturing engineer at Emrick Plastics in Windsor for nine years, a company that supplies products to GM.
"Them closing it's going to reduce work for smaller companies, probably work with us," says Tilo.
He hopes this is just a bump in the road.
"It's always going to go back up. The Big 3 they know what they are doing," says Tilo.
Premier Doug Ford has promised to help auto workers left without a job, but Bruner says that will do little to ease the pain of people in Oshawa.
“The government says they are going to soften the blow ease up on EI, nobody wants to be on EI,” says Bruner. “They want to work."
Bruner says the focus now for workers who have lost their jobs is to have faith in their union.
He says they must ensure they get the best possible severance package and pension to continue to support their families.