Employees 'concerned' as timeline of Windsor Assembly Plant shutdown remains uncertain

Employees at the Stellantis Windsor Assembly Plant are concerned about the impact an extended shutdown will have on its employees and the economy. The factory is one of many in the auto sector affected by a global shortage of semiconductors which are used in automotive electronics.

Factory has been closed since late March amid global shortage of semiconductors

The Windsor Assembly Plant is seen in a 2020 file photo. The plant has been shutdown since late March. (Bob Becken/CBC)

The Windsor Assembly Plant shutdown has been extended once more but some employees are concerned about the impact.

The Stellantis factory has been shutdown since March 29, due to a microchip shortage. It was aiming to re-open the week of May 17th, but employees were notified the re-open date would not be met. 

Patricia Burford, an employee at the Windsor Assembly Plant for more than 25 years. said the ongoing shutdown extensions are starting to get "concerning." 

"It's not good for our local economy and the global economy. We have a very skilled workforce. I don't understand why we can't just be sustaining ourselves here," says Burford, adding she's especially concerned for junior plant workers and supplier factory employees who aren't entitled to supplemental employment benefits.

"If anything, Canada should be like up there with the United States of America. So that makes me wonder why we are so dependent on Taiwan to manufacture these chips for us when it's a chip that's used in not just automotive assembly, but everything."

The Stellantis factory is one of many in the auto sector affected by a global shortage of semiconductors which are used in electronics. Other automakers, such as Ford and General Motors, have slashed production.

The plant, which produces minivans including the Chrysler Pacifica, Voyager and Grand Caravan, was slated to be closed for a four-week period starting on March 29. The reopening has been delayed several times.

On Monday, Unifor Local 444 said the plant will be closed for the week of May 17.

"The company has informed the Union that the Windsor Assembly Plant will be down the week of May 17th," the union said in a social media post.

A spokesperson for Stellantis confirmed the plant will be shut down next week because of the "unprecedented global microchip shortage."

"Stellantis continues to work closely with our suppliers to mitigate the manufacturing impacts caused by the various supply chain issues facing our industry," spokesperson LouAnn Gosselin said in a statement.

When asked about concerns surrounding ongoing shutdown extensions, Gosselin said "we are navigating a global supply issue and are making production decisions weekly."

The auto company, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler, employs roughly 5,000 people at the Windsor Assembly Plant.

The factory has been shuttered twice this year because of the semiconductor shortage. In February, production was halted for three weeks.

WATCH: Hear more from longtime employees Patricia Burford and Nick Dimitriou on their concerns surrounding the ongoing shutdown.

Windsor Assembly Plant workers 'concerned' as shutdown extensions continue

CBC News Windsor

1 month ago
Patricia Burford and Nick Dimitriou say their 'heart goes out' to junior staff members and those work at supplier factories since they're not entitled to the same benefits that they'll be getting over the course of this ongoing shutdown. 1:12

During the plant's downtime, workers are eligible to receive Employment Insurance benefits, and some get a union-negotiated top up that brings their wages up to about 80 per cent of their regular earnings.

Nick Dimitriou, who has been an employee for 26 years, said he's lucky to get that supplement. But he worries about those who are not eligible, including some junior workers.

"Those that don't have that negotiated into their contracts, my heart goes out to them and it is a struggle," he said.

He said he's been helping out family and his community during the extended downtime. 

"You try to keep busy. You gotta stay healthy, right?" he said.

With files from Sanjay Maru


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