Archive | 20 years ago, the GM plant in Boisbriand closed its doors for good

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Archives | 20 years ago, the GM plant in Boisbriand closed its doors for good

The GM Boisbriand plant in November 1980

On August 27, 2002, the last Camaro Z28 rolled out of the Boisbriand GM plant. Inaugurated in 1965 by the government of Jean Lesage, the General Motors plant was promised great success, but a series of bad decisions led to its disappearance, as our archive reports show.

“The start of production at the new General Motors plant marks a new stage in the economic development of Quebec. »

— Jean Lesage, Premier of Quebec, 1965

On October 12, 1965, Premier Jean Lesage inaugurated the only automobile production plant in Quebec. Quebec, the GM plant in Sainte-Thérèse-Ouest.

Excerpt from the speech of Prime Minister Jean Lesage at the inauguration of the GM plant in Sainte-Thérèse (Boisbriand).

October 22, 1965, on the program Le sel de la Semaine, journalist Jacques Keable presents a report about the establishment of the factory.< /p>

What does General Motors mean in Sainte-Thérèse, a new Klondike?, asks host Fernand Seguin.

Report by Jacques Keable about the inauguration of the GM plant in Sainte-Thérèse (Boisbriand) in 1965 and the projected socio-economic impacts. The show is hosted by Fernand Seguin.

In 1965, Sainte-Thérèse-Ouest had 4,200 souls. Located along communication routes, the Municipality offered land at very low prices.

At the time, General Motors was one of the most important companies in the capitalist world.< /p>

“A company the size of GM, with annual sales of $17 billion, net profits of $1.700 million and 661,000 employees, isn't going to live in the city, it's creating it. »

— Jacques Keable, 1965

General Motors alone pays the Municipality of Sainte-Thérèse 40% of its municipal and school taxes.

< p class="e-p">When it was founded in 1965, the plant provided for the employment of 2,500 employees and the annual production of 90,000 cars, Chevrolet Biscayne and Pontiac Strato Chief.

Initially, GM pays wages to Quebec workers that are 25% lower than those of Ontarians for identical functions. The salaries of unskilled workers are disappointing and allow only a very small number of employees to buy a house. The arrival of GM will also cause some housing problems.

During the 1970s, the factory had the wind in its sails and produced many vehicle models: Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Vega, Pontiac Astre, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Starfire, Pontiac Sunbird, etc. On March 16, 1974, Sainte-Thérèse-Ouest officially became Boisbriand.

The 1980s were marked by the economic recession, competition from Japanese cars and numerous labor disputes that undermined productivity.

In 1986, nothing was going well. Management and union relations are deteriorating and grievances are piling up.

On the newscast of the show Ce soirof January 30, 1986, Martine Lanctôt presents a report on the threats of closure hanging over the GM plant in Boisbriand.

Report by Martine Lanctôt on threats to close the GM plant in Boisbriand in the summer of 1987. The news bulletin is hosted by Pierre Maisonneuve.

The manager at the time, Gary Hansen, criticized the productivity of the Boisbriand plant. For example, the absenteeism rate would be three times higher there than in the Ontario plant in Oshawa.

Claude Ducharme, Quebec director of the United Auto Workers (UAW ) does not understand why Mr. Hansen criticizes the low productivity of the workers and blames them for the problems of the factory.

“For the union, these problems are primarily related to the fact that the factory has never been modernized. The Boisbriand plant has only four robots, while others already have 200.”

— Martine Lanctôt, 1986

GM has also invested massively in Ontario in the mid-1980s for modernization.

Never mind, the bosses issued an ultimatum and demanded that employees produce Oldsmobile Cieras and Chevrolet Celebrities at perfection.

In the late 1980s, the GM Boisbriand plant was finally modernized.

Employees owe much of this success to then plant manager Bob Moran, a native Texan who believed in the Quebec factory. The man was able to restore relations between unionized workers and bosses at the GM of Boisbriand, which rose to the top of all General Motors factories, in terms of the quality of the cars produced. The plant has made huge productivity gains.

GM is investing $450 million to upgrade the paint shop, $235 million to purchase 117 robots, and $25 million to train employees. Both provincial and federal governments provide an interest-free loan repayable over 30 years of $220 million each to the GM plant in Boisbriand in 1987.

On April 25, 1990, GM Canada President George A. Peapples announced that the Boisbriand plant had won the contract for the exclusive production of new models of the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird.

Modernization, however, results in the layoff of 700 workers out of 3,400. They will not return to their positions following the work.

But the Boisbriand plant still considers itself lucky. On December 18, 1991, GM announced record losses of $4.5 billion and 15% of the North American automobile market. Between 1991 and 1995, GM closed 21 factories and laid off 74,000 workers.

May 7, 1993 marked the official inauguration of the new factory devoted entirely to production Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro models.

Report by Éric Germain on the official inauguration of the GM plant in Boisbriand after its modernization to accommodate the machinery used to manufacture the Firebird and Camaro models. The news bulletin is hosted by Simon Durivage.

Éric Germain presents a report on this modernization that makes Boisbriand the world capital of the Camaro and the Firebird.

< p class="e-p">The factory then produced 200,000 vehicles a year. 85% of production is sold on the American market. As the song says, Camaros are made for driving on summer roads.

GM employee Raynald Poirier speaks to the pride of factory workers.< /p>

“A few years ago there was talk of a factory closing here. We were said to be the worst in terms of quality and productivity, then within a few years, we were held up as an example throughout the GM corporation and even elsewhere. »

— Raynald Poirier, 1993

In 1993, in the midst of a sluggish economy, the order book for the Camaro and Firebird was full for the next seven years. But these models were not popular with consumers for long. Barely three years later, the factory is once again experiencing difficulties. Large rear-wheel-drive cars sell poorly.

From 1996, only one shift remained in Boisbriand. The Camaros are leaving the Boisbriand yard in dribs and drabs. 1200 employees are still in place. In 1998, 75,000 Camaros left the factory.

Report by Bertrand Hall making a portrait of the multinational General Motors and explains the sequences of bad decisions that led the company into difficulty. The show is hosted by Stéphane Bureau.

On September 8, 1998, the news program Le Point focused on the troubles of General Motors.

Journalist Bertrand Hall paints a portrait of the multinational and explains the sequences of bad decisions that have undermined the company.

Difficulties linked to the use of subcontracting and the organization of work.

In the report, automotive columnist Jacques Duval points out that GM uses outdated construction methods. Its platforms do not allow the construction of multiple models. For example, at Volkswagen and Audi, Jacques Duval explains that we manage to make 26 models with 4 platforms. GM uses 17 platforms. The manufacturer's choice of models does not adapt to consumer demand.

“They were some of the last to come to the minivan market. They failed to produce an attractive product in the sport utility vehicle field, while there is a huge demand in the United States and Canada. »

—Jacques Duval, 1998

Premier Bernard Landry tries to convince GM to invest in Boisbriand and give the plant a new model. The problem, according to auto analyst Dennis Desrosiers, is that GM is not expanding at that time. If it gives a model to Boisbriand, it will have to withdraw it from another plant.

“Each day that passes without GM making an announcement for Sainte- Therese, it's one more day towards closing. »

— Dennis Desrosiers, 1998

August 27, 2002 is the final closure. Employees heard the news several months before and the union organized a final mobilization campaign in January 2002.

Report by journalist Serge Boire about the official closing of the General Motors plant in Boisbriand and the exit of the plant from the latest Camaro. The news bulletin is hosted by Christine Fournier.

At Téléjournal, journalist Serge Boire collects the comments of some employees who leave the company after production of the last car.

“It was sad, it should have been a hearse that would have passed last. I didn't feel like the party at all. »

— GM employee, 2002

4 million vehicles were produced at the GM plant in Boisbriand during its 37 years of existence. The factory was demolished in 2004.

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