Windsor

Windsor Assembly Plant workers prepare for strike as deadline looms

The union representing autoworkers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Canada is busily negotiating a deal that will affect those workers for the next three years. Meanwhile, local workers at preparing in case they need to strike.

As Unifor leaders negotiate a new contract, Windsor workers are preparing for a strike

A Unifor Local 444 member prepares signs in case workers strike. Unifor national representatives have until a strike deadline on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 11:59 p.m. to negotiate a new tentative contract with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Canada. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

After negotiating and ratifying a "home-run" three-year deal with Ford Motor Company, the union representing autoworkers in Canada is now in the last days of negotiation with their next target company — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Canada. 

Workers at FCA Canada — including those at the Windsor Assembly Plant — slated Wednesday, October 14 at 11:59 p.m. as their official strike deadline. 

Although that similar deadline had been extended in the Ford negotiation between Unifor Canada and the car company, local workers in Windsor still got busy preparing on Tuesday in case they were to walk off the job.  

Unifor Local 444 members invited the media to their "strike headquarters" at 3450 Ypres Ave. in Windsor a day before their deadline. 

Unifor Local 444 officials are hoping for improvements to wages, the wage structure for new hires and a new product for Windsor.

Unifor Local 444 members made picket signs on Tuesday in case workers go on strike. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Talks are ongoing between the union and FCA in Toronto but it's not clear whether the two sides are close to an agreement.

In a Facebook post from Unifor Local 444 on Monday, the union acknowledged the looming strike deadline and said they are still "not quite where we feel we should be." 

"Meetings are more often as the company's days to step up to this pattern are running out. We have given our strike committee the nod to be ready if we cannot come to a tentative agreement with FCA," reads the post. 

Unifor Local 444 strike captain Shawn Bezaire tells CBC News there are any number of new vehicles they could produce at the plant.

"We're hoping FCA is going to have to fall in line with the pattern that was met with [Ford] and we're hoping for a future investment to solidify our job security moving forward," said Bezaire.

"They give us the product — we'll build it."

There hasn't been a strike at the minivan plant since 1987. There are 4,671 unionized employees currently working at the factory. 

Unifor national president Jerry Dias announced a tentative deal with Ford in September which was later ratified by members. This negotiation was to set an example for the other contracts between the union and FCA and General Motors. 

The three-year deal included $1.98-billion of investments that will go "predominantly" to Ford's assembly plant in Oakville and Windsor's two Ford engine assembly plants. Those investments will be primarily to retool the Oakville plant to manufacture five new electric vehicles. 

"This is a major commitment from Ford Motor Company — huge," Dias told reporters during a news conference in September. 

"You don't make that type of commitment and make a minor splash and move on. This is going to be key facilities for Ford … a decades-long commitment."

Earlier this month, the governments of Ontario and Canada announced details of their plan to each spend $295 million to help Ford upgrade its assembly plant in Oakville to start making electric vehicles.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story reported that 6,000 workers were employed at Windsor Assembly. The correct number is 4,671 unionized employees, and the story has been changed to reflect that.
    Oct 13, 2020 3:59 PM ET

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