Ford Motor Co. will cut about 185 jobs at its Oakville, Ont., assembly plant in September amid slowing sales, with the potential for more cuts in January, according to Unifor.
Dave Thomas, president of Unifor Local 707 in Oakville, wrote in a post on the local’s website that the company is implementing changes to operations at the plant. Those changes include the elimination of one of three shifts at the plant’s paint shop, as well as reducing production by about five units per hour beginning in January, according to the union.
“Adding to the bad news, the company predicts based on the number of job reductions in August they foresee a permanent layoff of approximately 185 members in September 2019, with a possibility of additional members laid off in January 2020,” Thomas wrote in the post, pinning the changes on “cost expenses and slowing sales.”
In a statement emailed to Automotive News Canada, Ford said Friday the company has “a long-standing practice of matching production with consumer demand. As a result, we are making changes to the operating pattern” at the Oakville plant.
Voicemails left for Thomas and other Unifor officials were not immediately returned. According to Ford’s website, the Oakville plant employs about 4,600 workers, who build the Ford Edge, Ford Flex, Lincoln MKT and Lincoln Nautilus crossovers.
The job cuts come as the new-vehicle markets in Canada and the United States decline. Sales of the Edge, the highest-volume model assembled at Oakville, were up 5.7 per cent in Canada from a year earlier through June, though sales in the United States were down 5.6 per cent.
According to the Automotive News Data Center in Detroit, workers at Oakville assembled 132,407 vehicles through June, down two per cent from a year earlier.
In addition to a tough North American sales market, Ford in June said it would limit European sales of the Edge to just seven countries, as demand took a hit in the face of rising emissions taxes. Ford had previously told Automotive News Canada that the decision to cut back in Europe would not impact production at the Oshawa plant.
Thomas, in the post on the Unifor local’s website, said the union and Ford had been in discussions for “several weeks,” and it was attempting to “persuade the company from somehow avoiding this scenario.”
“As always, it’s based on a business decision and it all comes down to dollars and cents,” Thomas wrote. “Once again, our biggest concern was preserving good paying jobs and uprooting people’s lives.”
Ford joins General Motors and Fiat Chrysler in planning job cuts at its assembly operations in Canada this year. GM will convert its Oshawa, Ont., assembly plant into a supplier factory and test track in 2020, putting all but about 300 workers at the plant out of work. FCA plans to end the third shift at its Windsor, Ont., minivan plant in October, cutting about 1,500 jobs.
The Ontario government said it was working to support the auto industry through its Driving Prosperity program, and stands with the workers affected.
"We are disappointed to learn of Ford's decision to issue layoff notices to workers at the Oakville Assembly Complex," said Robert Gibson, spokesman for Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli.
He said the ministry of training, colleges and universities has been in contact to offer support to the affected workers, but that Ford has told the government it has made its own arrangements to assist those losing their job.
The cuts come as the Canadian auto market has seen 16 months of consecutive sales declines and the industry contends with a sharp drop in sales in China and slowing sales in the United States.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.