'Sick and tired of it': Unifor president speaks to crowd at Nemak rally
Published Thursday, September 12, 2019 11:02AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 13, 2019 2:57PM EDT
Hundreds of Unifor members from across Ontario bolstered the blockade at the Nemak plant in Windsr on Thursday.
The union held what it called a solidarity rally and said the protest at the plant – which is now into its 11th day -- would not end anytime soon.
Unifor national president Jerry Dias spoke to the crowd about how Windsor has changed in a post-auto pact world.
“We’ve seen what’s happening to manufacturing here in Windsor and I’m sick and tired of it, as I know you are all here today,” said Dias. “So we’re here because we’re not taking this crap anymore.”
Unifor Local 200 president John D'Agnolo said the two sides had a "high level conversation" Wednesday.
D'Agnolo said 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.
On Sept. 4, the Ontario Labour Relations Board declared the blockade an unlawful strike. On Sept. 5, a judge ordered an end to the blocked but the union has defied the order.
Unifor started the protest on Sept. 2 in response to Nemak's decision to close the plant in June 2020, putting 173 employees out of work, as the company moves the work to Mexico.
A Windsor judge has given the two sides until 2 p.m. Friday to settle their dispute.
Justice Terry Patterson said he would consider fines proposed by Nemak of $25,000 a day against Unifor and $2,000 a day against individual union leaders, including national Unifor president Jerry Dias.
But Dias said at Thursday's rally that the only way the issue gets resolved is at the bargaining table.