FCA extends 3rd shift at Windsor Assembly to end of year

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV has extended the jobs of approximately 1,500 workers through the end of the year at its Windsor Assembly Plant in Ontario, the company confirmed Wednesday.

The automaker said in March it would eliminate the third shift at the plant producing Chrysler Pacifica minivans on Sept. 30 to "better align production with global demand." FCA spokeswoman Jodi Tinson confirmed the shift is being extended, but declined to provide a reason why.

Fiat Chrysler has delayed its elimination of the third shift at Windsor Assembly Plant until the end of the year.

Unifor, the Canadian labor union that represents auto workers, posted the update on Facebook after meeting with FCA leaders Wednesday. Although Local 444 President Dave Cassidy celebrated the news, he added the union's work is not yet complete.

"There's obviously a lot of anxiety surrounding the third shift," he told The Detroit News. "It's great news for us. We as the union here will continue to work hard and maintain that third shift. We are the best in the business at what we do, but we have to secure new product. It's no secret."

He added that the decision was driven by sales. Pacifica sales are down 23% in the first half of the year, though the minivan was up 10% in June, the most recent month available after FCA switched to reporting sales quarterly.

The extension is the second granted to the third shift. Unifor was informed in June that the shift would be extended to Oct. 31 because of a fleet order, Cassidy said. The plant went from two shifts to three in 1993.

Wednesday's extension comes after a five-week production shutdown at the plant. During that time, Cassidy said, the automaker invested the $355 million the union said in April it had committed to make into the plant as the new 2020 Chrysler Voyager minivans are expected to hit dealer lots in the United States this fall. Updates included conveyor work on the engine line and new tooling, according to Unifor.

Tinson said she was unaware of an exact figure the company invested into the plant, noting the shutdown was to address capacity and review inventories.

"We make investments all the time," she said. "It's a normal part of business to keep plants up and running."