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GM, CAW Wait For Blockade Ruling

About 2,000 union members rallied in front of GM's headquarters as lawyers for the company and the CAW wait for the ruling on an injunction to end the blockade.

OSHAWA, Ontario (CP) -- While about 2,000 union members from across Ontario spent Thursday rallying in front of General Motors headquarters, lawyers for the company and the Canadian Auto Workers learned they would have to wait for the ruling that will determine the fate of an ongoing blockade of the automaker's offices.

Judge David Salmers ruled late Thursday afternoon that he needed to consider the matter at least overnight to consider whether to grant an injunction to end the blockade, which began June 4.

The hearing followed an application by GM for an injunction to end the blockade that arose after the company announced plans to shut down its Oshawa truck plant, axing 2,600 jobs.

''This is not a simple case and it is certainly not unimportant,'' said Salmers, who told lawyers he would deliver his ruling via e-mail as soon as possible.

Chris Buckley, president of CAW Local 222, said he was ''cautiously optimistic'' regarding his union's request for the court to dismiss GM's application for an injunction.

More than a dozen people from the afternoon rally went to the courthouse in nearby Whitby, Ont., afterward to attend the hearing, sporting red shirts bearing the slogan: ''Made in Canada matters.''

Police said the rally -- dubbed a ''solidarity march'' by the union -- was peaceful.

Joel Smith, who works for the Oshawa car plant, spent most the day in court watching the proceedings. While his job isn't directly affected by the truck plant closure, he said he is concerned he could be laid off because he has less seniority than some truck plant workers.

He said he spent the day in court ''to support myself, my family, my community, my union, my co-workers.''

CAW is arguing the blockade was provoked because the planned closure violates the terms of its collective agreement with GM.

''The union believes that General Motors gave them a promise, a binding promise to consult with them before making a decision affecting certain production lines,'' union lawyer Tim Gleason said after court was adjourned.

''And the union believes that promise is broken, so they're expressing their displeasure. ... We're asking the court to dismiss the motion.''

GM lawyer John MacDonald said in court the blockade is keeping 900 people away from work and preventing the company from performing its day-to-day operations. He argued GM had valid grounds to close the plant based on market demand and sales, and he called the union's actions ''illegal.''

Buckley told court the protest doesn't constitute a ''real and rapidly escalating risk'' as alleged by GM. He said the protesters moved when they were getting in the way of nearby businesses.

''I don't think anyone can dispute it's been very professional,'' he said. ''There's been a number of emotions, but at no time has there been any disrespect of anyone in the area.''

He also noted that last weekend when a CAW motorcade was circling the plant, halting production, he helped unblock traffic and has apologized on behalf of the union.

During a recess in court, Buckley made the 15-minute drive to the rally and was greeted by boisterous applause and cheering.

Buckley urged people to go to the courthouse to show their support, and he vowed to keep fighting against the plant closure while urging the federal government to promote Canadian manufacturing.

He said the ''bleeding of Canadian jobs'' to the United States and Mexico must stop.

''Make no mistake about what we've done over the last nine days -- we've not only woken up General Motors, we've woken up an entire nation,'' Buckley said.

''Our main objective heading into this nine days ago was to save the jobs of 2,600 of our members in that building right there, their children, their families and their communities. And that's what we'll continue to fight for.''

Linda Landry, who has worked on the assembly line at the Oshawa plant for 24 years, said she was luckier than many of her co-workers facing unemployment because her husband has a union job elsewhere.

''I'm here to save my job,'' she said. ''I'm right on the brink.''

Others attending the rally included NDP MP Peggy Nash and Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton.

Nash pledged the support of the federal NDP caucus and called on the Conservative government to recognize ''there is a manufacturing crisis in this country.''

She urged workers to continue their struggle to save their jobs.

''What we need is for General Motors to get out of the courtroom, stop the injunction and to sit down and figure out how to save jobs here in Oshawa,'' she said.

Hampton noted that Oshawa developed the prototype for a hybrid truck that was to be manufactured at the city's plant, but now it's slated to be built in the U.S. and Mexico.

''If you've done all the work ... the jobs should stay here, not go to Mexico.''

Lynn Ross, who has worked at the plant for 21 years, said workers made numerous compromises -- court documents indicate the union made $300 million in concessions in the latest agreement -- to keep costs down for the company.

''And now they've reneged on their end of the deal,'' said Ross, who could lose her job if the plant closes. ''I don't feel secure, once again, after having 21 years with the company.''

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