The future of a Windsor-area auto-parts plant was uncertain Tuesday, pending the outcome of meetings between Johnson Controls Inc. and Chrysler Group LLC, according to the Canadian Auto Workers union.
Johnson Controls operates a facility in Lakeshore, about 36 kilometres east of Windsor, that manufactures overhead components, or headliners, for Chrysler's Windsor-built minivans.
"It appears that Johnson Controls may be losing that contract at its Lakeshore facility," said Rick Laporte, president of CAW Local 444, which represents the 130 Johnson Controls employees, 40 of whom are currently laid off.
'There's obviously a lot of questions that we have that we're trying to nail down." —Rick Laporte, president CAW Local 444
During contract negotiations in late November, the union signed a side agreement with the Chrysler Corporation. The deal stipulated that if anything were to happen to the contract with Johnson Controls over the life of the three-year agreement, Chrysler would either find new work for that factory, or find new employment for the workers, or absorb the workers into the Windsor Assembly Plant.
The union never thought it would have to resort to using the side agreement, Laporte told CBC News.
Reassigned workers will lose seniority
The Chrysler assembly plant relies heavily on its supply from Johnson Controls, and during contract negotiations, the union said a work stoppage would have forced Chrysler to shut down the assembly plant within three hours, impacting 4,500 plant workers.
If Johnson Controls does close up shop, and, Laporte said, "there's a very good possibility that is going to happen," then Chrysler would absorb the workers as new hires.
Since Chrysler hasn't hired anyone at its Windsor assembly plant since 2000, the Johnson Controls workers would be the most junior workers at the plant.
CAW Local 444 held an information meeting for Johnson Controls workers on Sunday to discuss the outlook and explain the details of the agreement with Chrysler.
Laporte said Tuesday he has asked for meetings with both Chrysler and Johnson Controls, "to lock things down and secure things up."
"There's obviously a lot of questions that we have that we're trying to nail down," he said.
The 2009 fourth-quarter sales of Johnson Controls dropped 15 per cent, from $9.3 billion US in 2008 to $7.9 billion US in 2009, forcing the Milwaukee, Wis.-based company to find new ways to cut costs.