Workers spurred by labor dispute that threatened to close the Stellantis assembly plant in Windsor, Ontario are back on the job – for now – as negotiators take a stab at resolving a contractor issue.
“Former AWC Unifor workers are back on the job as Stellantis and Unifor continue discussions. Regular production continues at the Windsor Assembly plant,” Stellantis said in a statement e-mailed to TheDetroitBureau.com.
A barricade put up by Unifor workers threatened to choke off the plant’s operations. The line was put in place after the company replaced a Unifor-represented contractor, Auto Warehousing Co., with a different company. AWC marshalled new vehicles rolling off the line for shipment and the change affected about 60 members of Local 444.
In Windsor, the company and the union agreed to resume talks after a Canadian labor court declined Stellantis’ request for an order that would have forced the Unifor members to remove the barricade at a gate used for employee access and shipping finished vehicles from the Windsor plant.
All of the employees represented by Unifor, however, have now returned to work, said Dave Cassidy, Unifor Local 444 president, in a video on the local’s Facebook page.
“It’s been gut wrenching over the last couple of weeks,” Cassidy said. “The former AWC workers of Local 444 are back on the job as FCA and us work over the next little bit to sort out the fine details around it,” he said, nothing he had spoken with senior executives as part of the effort to resolve the dispute.
Shutting down the plant is a massive issue for Stellantis, which just debuted publicly Monday after more than year of merger talks.
The automaker was already pinched by the unscheduled shutdown of the assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario, where it builds the Dodge Challenger and Charger. The shutdown in Brampton, which was triggered by a shortage of critical computer chips, is due to stretch to the end of January, company officials said.
The new contractor, a firm called Motipark, does not employ Unifor members, but Local 444 maintains that under Canadian law the AWC employees have successor rights to the jobs on the Stellantis property.
Space to store production around the plant was close to exhaustion at the sprawling Walker Road facility, according to the Windsor Star.
The resumption of negotiations also followed Stellantis failed appeal to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Stellantis maintained the blockade amounted to an illegal strike, but the board sided with Unifor.
Stellantis had also warned Unifor its members wouldn’t get paid if the dispute stopped production. Cassidy, however, noted no production was lost. The board’s ruling over prompted another road of discussions between company and union representatives.