Eric Mayne's Blog

A bittersweet goodbye

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I attended a wake on the weekend. But not for a person.

Some 2,000 employees and retirees of General Motors Canada gathered to mark the closing of the auto maker's transmission plant in Windsor, ON. Production there ends next month as GM consolidates its transmission output in the U.S.

The move ends the city's 90-year connection with GM. The auto maker's manufacturing footprint there will vanish when the last gearbox leaves the plant.

Despite the site's advanced age, some 1,400 displaced workers argue the plant is in its prime. Quality levels are high and skill runs deep, they say.

But their fight to stay alive was lost two years ago when GM, responding to fuel-economy mandates and consumer demand for thriftier powertrains, decided to purge its lineup of 4-speed automatics -- the Windsor site's sole product.

Within the plant's "surviving family," anger has given way to resignation. Instead of shaking their fists, they shrug.

Then they point with pride to their impact over the years. Not just transmissions, but engines, axles, commercial trucks and -- during the Second World War -- machine guns and gun mounts.

There is something truly special about people who work in manufacturing. And no matter how bravely they face the future, it's painful to watch them suffer.

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