Windsor·Video

Layoffs at Fiat Chrysler plant in Windsor will affect 1,500 jobs

About 1,500 people will be out of work starting Sept. 30, once Fiat Chrysler Automobiles terminates its third shift at the Windsor assembly plant. It's a shift that's been in place since 1993, according to Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy.

Fiat Chrysler will end third shift at the Windsor assembly plant starting Sept. 30

Gillian Laflamme, who works at the Windsor assembly plant, says rumours of the third shift's cancellation have been circulating for years. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Approximately 1,500 people will be out of work starting Sept. 30, once Fiat Chrysler Automobiles terminates its third shift at the Windsor assembly plant.

It's a shift that's been in place since 1993, according to Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy.

Gillian Laflamme, who works at the plant, was at the union hall when she heard the news. Wiping away tears, she said that, until yesterday, she'd been trying to stay positive.

"There's, like, 1,200 people who want to throw up right now," she said.

Ever since the third shift began, rumours of its possible termination have been circulating, said Laflamme.

Gillian Laflamme says Windsor has been trying to keep spirits up to save GM jobs and did not expect this news. 0:31

Cassidy said the news is devastating for everyone.

"Our feeder plants, obviously, will feel the ripple effects," he said, referring to factories that supply parts to the Windsor plant.

The Windsor plant makes the Chrysler Pacifica, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and the Dodge Grand Caravan, according to Fiat Chrysler's website.

Premier Ford responds 

The company has given the union the required six-month notice for a permanent reduction in the plant, according to Cassidy. The plant will return to a two-shift production in September.

In a news release, Ontario Premier Doug Ford called the announcement "extremely disappointing," and said his government will fight to protect the jobs of auto workers in Windsor.

"There has never been a better time for auto manufacturers to invest in the province of Ontario," he said.

The Windsor assembly plant will be returning to a two-shift production starting Sept. 30. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

While the news came as a shock to the union Thursday afternoon, Cassidy called the change a "sales and business decision."

"This is not a General Motors-Oshawa situation," he said, referring to GM's announcement last November that it would end production at its plant in Oshawa, Ont., by the end of 2019, affecting about 2,600 union workers.

"[Fiat Chrysler] is here in Canada," Cassidy said. "We build a great product here in Windsor, and we're going to continue to do that," he said.

Changing market

Fiat Chrysler says the decision was made to "better align production with global demand."

Company spokesperson LouAnn Gosselin said in an email that retirement packages will be offered to eligible employees.

"The company will make every effort to place indefinitely laid-off hourly employees in open full-time positions, as they become available, based on seniority."

About 1,500 people who work at the Windsor plant will be out of a job in six months. (Geoff Robins/Canadian Press)

In December last year, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the city needs to start planning as if Fiat Chrysler were leaving Windsor, and spoke about the importance of diversifying the economy and attracting new investment.

On Thursday, Dilkens said GM's closure of the Oshawa plant was a "wake-up call."

"At least we're not in the midst of a recession, where it's hard to find another job," he said. "There are other positions available."

Dilkens said he's in touch with the company to see what other vehicles might be made at the plant, but said, "We don't push them."

"What we're seeing right now is that people aren't buying the [Chrysler] Pacifica and [other minivans], as they were in the past."

'Keep the pressure'

Cassidy said the membership will get through the layoff together.

"Our product in Windsor is No.1 in the world. Everyone knows it," he said. "And we're going to keep the pressure on the company."

Kathy McKay says Windsor's economy depends on FCA's assembly plant in Windsor. 0:43

Kathy McKay has been with Fiat Chrysler for 24 years and works on the second shift. She said she's never seen job losses like this.

"We even weathered the third shift surviving the bankruptcy," she said, referring to the layoff of 1,000 workers when Chrysler declared bankruptcy in 2009.

"We've been through hard times before without losing the third shift. It's a complete shock to me that finally it's come to this."

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