Ottawa 'very much aware' of impending auto sector layoffs in Windsor: MP
'We're going to be there for the workers,' says MP Irek Kusmierczyk
The federal government is "very much aware" of impending layoffs at the Stellantis plant, according to Windsor-Tecumseh Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk.
"We're going to be there for the workers. We have the workers' backs at Windsor Assembly Plant," he said in an interview with CBC Radio's Windsor Morning on Wednesday.
Kusmierczyk said that following the automaker's announcement on Friday, he was in touch with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, along with the federal ministers of innovation and workforce development.
"They very much understand how urgent the situation here is in Windsor," he said.
The innovation minister, François-Philippe Champagne, is working with partners around the world to try to bring more microchips to Canada as quickly as possible, Kusmierczyk said. But the challenge is that the problem is being felt globally.
"There's about $200 billion of auto production that has been wiped out because of this microchip shortage, and it's impacted not just the auto industry but all sectors, all industries, around the world," Kusmierczyk said.
Stellantis, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler, cited that shortage, along with the effects of the pandemic, in its announcement of the job cuts. The company said it would transition the Windsor Assembly Plant from two shifts to one in the spring, translating to a loss of about 1,800 positions.
But the company has also indicated that it remains committed to restoring the plant to a three-shift operation, in line with the terms of a collective agreement reached last year that include an investment of up to $1.5 billion in Windsor.
Canada 'doesn't have a plan'
Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse is calling on the government to adopt a national strategy for the auto sector instead of a piecemeal approach.
"It can't be that unsurprising that we're still losing auto jobs when we're one of the few countries that doesn't have a plan," he said last week.
While such a strategy is not in place, the government is taking the right steps to support the sector and drive investment, Kusmierczyk said.
"The proof is in the fact that over the last year and a half, you've had historic investments in automotive that we haven't seen in 25 years if not more," he said referencing commitments from Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.
In addition to being at the table with Stellantis regarding its previous commitment, Kusmierczyk said Ottawa is also "aggressively pursuing" investments from battery manufacturers.
"Those battery plants would be generational investments in communities like ours. You're talking about 2-3,000 jobs that would be created here," he said.
With files from Windsor Morning and Chris Ensing