Union preparing for difficult negotiations as Ford scraps new Edge, Nemak delays exit
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Unifor Local 200 is not expecting 2020 to get any less eventful as it prepares for what are expected to be tough negotiations with Ford Motor Co. and Nemak.
A report from Auto Forecast Solutions (AFS) points to Ford scrapping plans to build its new Edge crossover vehicle at its Oakville plant. The move is seen as a worrying sign to the union as it works to negotiate a new contract with Ford and settle its contract dispute with Nemak.
“It will obviously worry our facility because now you’re down to an engine program. You could leave Windsor, we watched it happen in Australia so, we don’t want to see that happen in Canada,” said John D’Agnolo, Unifor Local 200 president, in an interview with CTV News.
D’Agnolo says there are about 1,700 people employed by Ford in Windsor after the union secured a $700-million investment from the automaker in its Canadian operations as part of 2016 contract negotiations.
That four-year deal is up in September.
AFS President and CEO, Joe McCabe, tells CTV News the automaker could look to extend Edge production in Oakville, or it may look to invest in an electric vehicle replacement.
“They’re going to put brand new vehicles in there or they’re going to use this as a fantastic bargaining chip for Unifor and the Canadian government to say, ‘We need some concessions because if you want us to stay here because once we make this investment in Oakville in a brand new platform, this is not a four-year investment – this is a multiple-year investment,’” said McCabe.
While those tied to Windsor’s auto sector are watching the moves Ford may be making in Oakville, McCabe sees Windsor as more insulated from the worst effects.
“There’s a lot of pros in there so, from a Windsor powertrain side we see some insulation,” said McCabe. “From a Windsor supply side that may be making parts for the Edge, well, that’s a little bit of a higher risk.”
Nemak delays exit
The turmoil comes as Local 200 is continuing its fight to keep Windsor’s Nemak plant open.
On Tuesday, the company confirmed to CTV News the operation will continue past its planned closure date of June 28. The plant is now set to remain open until Aug. 30.
In an email, Nemak spokesperson Louise Gaudette said the Mexican-based company still intends to shut down the plant after it fulfills its volume requirements.
“This extension is due to the plant being down during the pandemic and the requirement to make contractual parts for our customer,” said Gaudette.
The aluminum plant produces engine blocks for General Motors.
While D’Agnolo welcomes the extension, he says the union will not stop working to prevent the plant from closing its doors.
D’Agnolo says the union is still waiting for a resolution to its appeal of the arbitrator’s decision which ended Unifor’s nearly two-week blockade of the plant in Sept. 2019.
“Unfortunately, with the delays with COVID and still waiting for the decision has delayed everything and it’s caused a lot of issues,” he said.
D’Agnolo adds the union wants the court’s ruling before negotiating buyout packages for its members at the plant.
Both the Nemak departure and the AFS report concerning Ford’s plans for the Edge show the hyper-competitive, global landscape of the auto sector and the challenges unions and governments face in maintaining well-paying manufacturing jobs.
“This announcement’s [AFS report] always frustrating because of the work that we do within our plants,” said D’Agnolo. “To see a company drop that on us, it does worry us but, at the end of the day, we got to do what we got to do to protect those jobs here in Canada.”