Sting sings in Oshawa in support of GM workers who are losing their jobs

Sting begins the performance with the song Message in a Bottle. Photo credit: Jackie Graves

Sting and the cast of the musical The Last Ship took to the stage at the Tribute Communities Centre Thursday afternoon to support those affected by the General Motors (GM) closure in Oshawa.

“We wanted to show our support and our solidarity for your cause,” says Sting, the rock icon and former lead singer of The Police.

The show was informal in nature.

The cast was not dressed in their costumes. Instead, some of them were on stage wearing ‘Save Oshawa GM’ T-shirts. When they walked onto the stage, the audience began to cheer “So, so, so, solidarity”.

In November, GM announced the Oshawa plant will close at the end of 2019. The decision will affect more than 2,600 GM workers and families.

Patrick Clavette is an employee for Lear, a company that supplies GM with car and truck seats. He says his brother-in-law and many others will be affected by the shut down.

“Everyone jokes it’ll be a ghost town without them, I mean, there may be life after GM but it’s been here so long,” says Clavette.

The Last Ship‘s plot is all too similar to the one Oshawa is experiencing now. It is set in the shipbuilding community of Newcastle, U.K. and is based on a true story.

Sting experienced a similar situation himself when he was a child.

“The shipyard I was born next to is just a hole in the ground now. There is no shipbuilding in Great Britain anymore and we used to build 85 per cent of the world’s shipping,” says Sting.

The musician adds that his hometown was devastated for 30 years due to the “industry failing and not being supported by the government.”

Jerry Dias.jpg
Unifor national president, Jerry Dias, gives a speech before the performance begins. Photo credit: Jackie Graves

Unifor national president, Jerry Dias, says the show was about “elevating the profile of the issue.

“Today’s performance highlights choices that people make in life — and those choices need to be made by (GM) as well,” he says.

After the performance of select songs from the musical, eight-year GM employee, Jackie Sobil, spoke to the crowd about how she and her husband, also a GM employee, have been affected since the closure announcement.

Some of the cast members, wept during Sobil’s speech, in which she told the audience the couple has learned she is pregnant, but due to the plant closure they have huge concerns around their future family.

“It was very evident to us performing on stage…I can see the worry on their faces…genuine concern about their future and that was very moving for us as performers,” says Sting.

The musician also says he won’t walk away and forget about Oshawa and hopes he is able to continue his support of Unifor.

“Everyone in this cast was deeply moved by the privilege, by the honour of standing there and entertaining you, that doesn’t go away,” he says.