OSHAWA, Ont. - About 2,000 union members from across Ontario marched in front of General Motors headquarters Thursday while lawyers for the company and the Canadian Auto Workers were in court to determine the fate of an ongoing blockade at the automaker's offices.
Police said the rally - dubbed a "solidarity march" by the union - was peaceful.
At the same time, lawyers for the union and General Motors attended a hearing in Ontario Superior Court in nearby Whitby.
The hearing follows an application by GM for a court injunction to end the eight-day blockade, which erupted after the company announced plans to shut down its Oshawa truck plant, axing 2,600 jobs. The judge ruled Thursday afternoon that he would consider the matter overnight and not make a decision before Friday morning.
CAW says the blockade was provoked because the planned closure violates the terms of its collective agreement with GM.
Chris Buckley, president of CAW Local 222, told court the protest doesn't constitute a "real and rapidly escalating risk" as alleged by GM.
Buckley 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.
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."