Fiat Chrysler to lay off 1,500 at Windsor Assembly

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
About 1,500 workers on the third shift at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Windsor Assembly Plant will have jobs through the first three months of the year.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said Thursday it will lay off 1,500 workers at its Windsor Assembly Plant in Ontario.

The automaker is cutting its third shift at the facility that produces Chrysler Pacifica minivans to "better align production with global demand," Jodi Tinson, FCA spokeswoman, said in a statement. The action would take effect Sept. 30.

Labor union Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy said the automaker informed the union of the layoffs hours earlier at 2 p.m. Thursday. He demanded a meeting immediately with FCA CEO Mike Manley.

"People's lives — 1,500 direct families depend on us," an emotional Cassidy said during a news conference in Windsor. "We're going to do everything possible to make sure we maintain three shifts. Everyone knows our product in Windsor is No. 1 and if you want to build it right, you want to build it in Windsor."

FCA said it will offer retirement packages to eligible employees and make efforts to place indefinitely laid-off hourly employees in open full-time positions as they become available based on seniority.

The automaker is required by its contact with the union to give a six-month notice of permanent reductions. The plant went from two shifts to three shifts in 1993, Cassidy said.

Cassidy said the decision is based on softening demand of the Pacifica. U.S. sales of the minivan dropped 32 percent year-over-year in February.

The cutbacks in Windsor come as the automaker confirmed in February that it would revive a previously idled engine plant on Detroit's east side as part of a $4.5 billion investment in five Michigan plants. The actions would create about 6,500 new jobs in Metro Detroit, 

Thursday's news follows reports on Wednesday that FCA would idle its plants in Windsor and Brampton, Ontario, for the first two weeks of April to align production with demand. It would be the third time in 2019 that the automaker stopped production in Windsor.

Cassidy said the shift cut is not akin to General Motor Co.'s decision to idle its assembly plant in Oshawa,Ontario, when it ends production of the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS later this year.

Unifor last month suspended its media campaign against GM after talks between the two parties appeared to be progressing toward a future for the Oshawa plant.

Cassidy also criticized Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, who in December emphasized the importance of diversifying the city's economy should FCA decide to leave.

"(Explicit) Drew, seriously," Cassidy said. "I have reached out to Drew Dilkens so many times. I have tried to bridge the gap there. ... This is devastating for the city of Windsor, and I hope Drew Dilkens might reach out to me."

The mayor's office did not immediately return request for comment.