Unifor flouts court order to remove blockade, presents Nemak with demands

Unifor's leadership flouted a court order to remove a blockade in front of the Nemak plant and instead presented the auto parts manufacturer with a proposal, while the protest in Windsor remains in place.

'[Demands] must be met in order for us to take down the blockade,' says union leader

On Saturday afternoon, the blockade continues, as workers await instructions from Unifor leaders. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Unifor's leadership flouted a court order to remove a blockade in front of the Nemak plant and instead presented the auto parts manufacturer with a proposal, while the protest in Windsor remains in place.

The union will now be fined $10,000 per day — and four leaders will need to pay $1,000 daily — for failing to comply with the court order that was issued Friday. 

About an hour before the midnight court-ordered deadline to remove the blockade, Unifor publicly presented its proposal to Nemak. Here are the terms:

  • Unifor wants three separate meetings with Nemak execs within a 14-day period starting Monday to reach a resolution.
  • An expedited arbitration process with a decision no later than October 31.
  • Both Unifor and Nemak will agree to the arbitrator's decision.
  • Nemak will not discipline Unifor members in relation to this dispute.

"It's a list of demands that we are saying must be met in order for us to take down the blockade," said Chris Taylor, a national representative for Unifor, and former president of Local 200.

Unifor said this proposal was sent to Nemak officials Saturday evening, and they have not received a response. CBC News has reached out to Nemak for comment.

"What we're looking at and hoping for, is a resolution to this. Either honour the contract, or come up with a compensation package," said Nemak employee Marcel Roy, who's worked at the plant for more than eight years.

Delivering his decision at the Superior Court of Justice in Windsor on Friday, Justice Terrance Patterson determined Unifor national president Jerry Dias; Local 200 president John D'Agnolo; Local 200 plant chair Mike Jobin; and Local 200 vice-president Tim Little were in contempt for failing to adhere to a Sept. 4 Ontario Labour Relations Board decision ordering them to cease their "unlawful strike" at Nemak. 

Daily fines

Patterson has already fined Unifor $75,000 for the strike and an additional $10,000 per day will be fined for non-compliance beyond Saturday at midnight. 

National representative for Unifor Chris Taylor says Nemak's reasons for closing the plant stem from circumstances that were known back in 2016 when they signed the collective agreement. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Additionally, Dias, D'Agnolo, Little and Jobin face a $1,000 daily fine for every 24 hours that they fail to comply with Patterson's order. 

When Nemak announced the 2020 closure of its west Windsor plant in July, the company said the decision was a result of the "early phase-out of an export program with a customer in China," but Taylor says the company knew that program was ending in 2019 three years ago.

"Everything that they are blaming as the reasons for closing the plant were known circumstances in 2016 when they signed the document with us to extend the agreement for three years," he said, explaining that according to that collective agreement, the plant is meant to remain open until 2022.

He said the company points to low volume projections as another reason for the closure, but he insists that was known too. 

Unifor National President Jerry Dias has said the company is closing the plant to move production to Mexico. 

"We don't have a fight with the courts," Taylor said. "We have a fight with the corporation that is simply trying to take our jobs and move them to another country."

Seeking arbitration

Following Friday's court decision, Nemak's west Windsor plant manager Brad Boutros apologized to employees for the facility's upcoming closure, and said that if Unifor fails to comply with Patterson's order, court would be the only option. 

Nemak worker Marcel Roy says if Unifor leaders tell him to go back to work, he will. But until then, the blockade continues. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Taylor said the union will be seeking arbitration moving forward to deal with the conflict over the collective agreement.

As for striking workers like Roy, they say, if they're told to go back to work, they'll go back to work, but ultimately they'll keep doing what they're doing until the union tells them otherwise.

"There's nothing we'd like better than to get back to work. We all have families, we all have bills. We want to work."

With files from Amy Dodge, Katerina Georgieva & Jason Viau


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