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GM Plant In Canada Could Get Third Car Line

General Motors and the Ontario government are in discussions about adding a third car line at the automaker's truck plant in Oshawa slated for closure in 2009.

OSHAWA, Ontario (AP) -- General Motors Corp. and the Ontario government are in discussions about adding a third car line at the automaker's truck plant in Oshawa, Economic Development and Trade Minister Sandra Pupatello said Wednesday.

''We do want to talk about what's next for General Motors, so we're determined as best we can to try to get detail, a little meat on the bones of some of the conversation,'' she said.

''We're trying to nail down timing, because if in fact we have an opportunity for a new car product, there is still going to be a couple of years where we have a gap between the estimated date of closure of the truck plant and a launch of a new vehicle. Once the preliminary discussions are complete, the next conversation would be with ''people who are responsible for North American manufacturing where some of the decision-making actually takes place,'' she said.

GM recently announced it would close the doors of the plant in Oshawa in 2009, citing rising fuel costs and lower demand for gas-guzzling trucks. The plant employs 2,600 people.

Ever since that announcement, workers have been blocking access to GM's Canadian headquarters to protest the closure. The Canadian Auto Workers union has been calling on the Detroit automaker to reverse the decision, but the company said last week that wasn't going to happen.

On Tuesday, GM applied for a court order to end the blockade and also announced it was seeking $1.5 million in compensation from the CAW local union and some of its members.

CAW Local 222 president Chris Buckley said he doesn't understand GM's compensation demand, since the plant in question has remained in operation throughout the protest. The company alleges head-office staff has been kept from work as a result of the blockade.

''I'd like to know where they get their numbers from because we've kept the two best assembly plants in the world operating,'' Buckley said.

Officials said they expected some 3,000 members of the CAW and other unions from across Ontario to participate in a ''solidarity march'' Thursday, when a judge is to hear GM's request. The CAW has also invited local, provincial and federal politicians to attend.

''We want to see just what levels of government, and just what city councils, actually care about the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs,'' Buckley said.

If the company successfully convinces the court to order an end to the blockade, the workers will take their protest elsewhere, said Local 222 chairman Keith Osborne.

''Just because they move us off the blockade does not mean the issue is done with and the union has thrown its hands up and given up,'' he said.

GM spokesman Stew Low said the company tried the ''collaborative method with the CAW'' and would continue to ''go down that path,'' but had no choice but to seek legal intervention.

''GM has requested repeatedly that the union take down the blockade, but that hasn't happened,'' Low said.

''So we're really put in the position where we don't have any further recourse but to seek legal remedy. It's not our preferred course of action, but, at this point, it's the only course of action that we see to be able to get our employees back into our building and continue working.''

Low wouldn't comment on details of the legal application or the company's bid for compensation.

CAW President Buzz Hargrove has said he expects union members will obey any court order to remove the blockade, and both Buckley and Osborne have said the protest will remain peaceful.

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