Sting to meet GM workers in Oshawa as 'The Last Ship' echoes their experience

Growing up in a northern England town where the local shipbuilding industry collapsed, legendary musician Sting says he knows what the GM workers in Oshawa, Ont., are going through.

His musical The Last Ship follows the story of Sting’s hometown of Wallsend as it grips with the reality of a dying industry. The local collapse affected Sting’s father and grandfather, and the musical is based on Sting’s experiences growing up, as well as his 1991 album The Soul Cages.

The 18-time Grammy winner stars in the musical, which runs from Feb. 9 to March 24 in Toronto. Sting plays Jackie White, a man who rallies the town together to keep the shipyard alive.

In a sit-down interview with CTV News Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme, Sting said the plot of The Last Ship echoes what the people of Oshawa are going through as GM plans to close their assembly plant and shift operations to Mexico.

“At some point basic human decency has to kick in and companies should be loyal to the people who work for them (and) loyal to the communities that support them,” he said.

Sting also revealed he intends to visit the workers this week as a “gesture of solidarity.” 

“I’m going to meet the community on Thursday,” he said. “The whole cast has volunteered to go. We’re offering our support and understanding.”

GM’s closure in Oshawa will result in the loss of 2,600 unionized jobs, as well as the loss of thousands of spin-off jobs, according to Unifor.

Sting criticized companies like GM who’ve chosen to leave a town for cheaper operations elsewhere, saying the employees and the people around them are what make these enterprises work.

“Fundamental economics is based on community,” he said. “We have to have communities. You can’t just destroy them for the sake of a buck, or take it somewhere else because you’re paying them half the money. That doesn’t work. It’s not right.”

During the interview, Sting touched on a variety of subjects, including the evolution of his play, his own performance in the show, living in New York during the Trump era and his thoughts on Brexit.

“(Brexit) was a lethal, perfect storm of people who want to leave and people who just wanted to kick the government in the behind,” he said. “I sympathize with that, but it was a tragedy.”

“The European Union is not a perfect mechanism at all, but its successes have been profound,” he added. “I’ve never in my life had to point a rifle at a European because we’ve been at peace.”

The British government is due to leave the European Union on March 29 but is still without a deal after Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal was emphatically denied on Jan. 15.

Sting said he hopes the deadlines can all be pushed back to provide the government and the EU with enough time to figure out a new deal.





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