Judge finds Unifor, union leaders in contempt for Nemak blockade
Published Friday, September 13, 2019 2:16PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, September 14, 2019 11:15AM EDT
A Windsor judge has ruled Unifor and four union leaders are in contempt of court for ignoring an order to end a blockade at the Nemak plant.
The ruling against the union includes National President Jerry Dias and Local 200 President John D'Agnolo as well as Mike Jobin and Tim Little.
Justice Terry Patterson has imposed a one-time fine of $75,000 against Unifor Local 200.
The judge has also ruled if that the blockade is not removed by 12:01 a.m. Sunday, the union will be fined $10,000 a day and the four individuals will be fined $1,000 a day.
"I just hope the fines are enough motivation in order to get us back in," says plant manager Brad Boutros.
The Mexican-owned aluminum casting plant, which builds engine blocks for General Motors, hopes to resume production at 11 p.m. Sunday.
Nemak lawyers filed contempt of court charges against the union and its members after they ignored an Ontario Labour Relations Board ruling and a court injunction to end the unlawful strike.
Unifor set up a blockade at the Windsor plant on Sept. 2, in response to Nemak's decision to close the plant in June 2020. The closure would put 173 employees out of a job, as the company moves the work to Mexico.
On Sept. 4, the Ontario Labour Relations Board declared the blockade an unlawful strike. On Sept. 5, Patterson ordered an end to the blocked but the union has defied the order.
Patterson had set a deadline of 2 p.m. Friday for both sides to resolve their issues.
Dias said at a rally Thursday attended by hundreds of union members that the only way the issue gets resolved is at the bargaining table.
D'Agnolo said the two sides had a "high level conversation" on Wednesday.
D'Agnolo added they asked the company to live up to their current collective agreement and keep the plant open until the end of 2022.
Company officials claim they have lived up to the terms of the collective agreement, which only calls for 60-days notice of a plant closure.
But D'Agnolo noted they signed a five-year deal with Nemak in 2015, and in 2016, the company asked the workers to take a wage-freeze for three years, starting in 2019. In exchange, Unifor claims Nemak promised three products would be built here.
Nemak says it cannot keep the plant open, since customer orders are too low, and the plant would only be operating at 10 per cent of capacity.
"I respect the judge and the courts, this is not what this is all about," said D'Agnolo after Friday's ruling. "This is about people who have lost their jobs and I'm trying to get the jobs to stay in Canada."
D'Agnolo added the union says it will now meet with its members, but they have initiated arbitration proceedings.