FCA Canada, now a part of Stellantis, says a union blocked at its Windsor, Ont., minivan plant will soon affect output there, and if it does, workers won’t be getting paid if the assembly line stops.
Unifor, which represents about 4,500 workers there, some of which are on layoff after the automaker cut a shift last year, has erected a blockade at the gate where finished vehicles exit the facility.
The union is upset that about 60 of its members lost their jobs when the automaker changed companies that drive finished minivans off the line and to an auto storage lot about two kilometres away.
About seven months ago, FCA Canada initiated a competitive bid process for the contract work. Eventually, MotiPark, which owns the nearby storage yard, won the work over AWC, which employed about 60 Unifor members. MotiPark employees are represented by Teamsters.
Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy believes his members should get the work at MotiPark.
Cassidy said in a Facebook post that his members are being replaced with “a cheaper workforce” and that it “should be a wake up call to all of us.”
“How can we just sit back and let it happen?” he asked. “We’re blocking the workers from MotiPark coming in to do our work. It’s not happening without a fight.”
Unifor is claiming its members have a right to the work, based on Ontario employment laws. The union filed papers asking for the case to be heard by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
Meanwhile, FCA Canada says the issue of the blockade's legality will be heard before the Superior Court of Ontario on Thursday.
FCA Canada said in a statement to Automotive News Canada that all bidders were advised that MotiPark was awarded the work starting Jan. 1, 2021.
“AWC accepted the results of the bid process and wound down their operations to allow for an orderly transition to MotiPark,” FCA Canada spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin said in the statement.
Unifor established the blockade Jan. 4.
“It is unfortunate Unifor is choosing to use this inappropriate tactic of blockading our property even though Stellantis is not involved in the dispute and knowing that its effect will soon result in our Windsor operations being shut down,” Gosselin said Monday morning. “We have advised Unifor leadership that if our Windsor Assembly Plant production is impacted by any unlawful blockade, employees will not be paid for the period of any shutdown caused by Unifor’s deliberate actions.”
The plant builds the Chrysler Pacifica for both Canada and the United States, the Chrysler Voyager for the U.S. market and the Chrysler Caravan for Canada. The plant assembles about 830 minivans each day on two shifts.
“It is imperative that Unifor’s actions cease immediately so that our Windsor employees, suppliers and operations are not negatively impacted,” Gosselin said.