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Unifor members blockade FCA's Windsor minivan plant

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Members of the Canadian autoworkers union Unifor are blockading an entrance to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's minivan plant in Windsor, Ontario, after the automaker switched logistics suppliers.

The new contractor, Windsor-based MotiPark Ltd., employs workers who are members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The change has left 60 Unifor members out of a job since the start of this month, according to Local 444. The blockade began earlier this week while production at Windsor Assembly is down. Work is scheduled to resume Monday.

Unifor Local 444 members form a blockade at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Windsor Assembly Plant in Ontario. The union is angered after a new FCA contractor says it plans to use Teamsters labor instead of the Unifor members.

MotiPark is "not taking ANY of our members instead hiring new folks at a much lower rate," Local 444 President Dave Cassidy, who was at the blockade Friday at Vimey Avenue and Walker Road and not immediately available for comment, said earlier this week in a Facebook post. "Our local is prepared to do *whatever it takes to ensure our members are not left behind."

The union has reached out to parties involved in the situation, he added. It also has filed an application under Section 69 of the Ontario Labour Relations Act challenging MotiPark’s responsibilities under successor rights.

"Motipark Limited is proud to have been awarded a service contract for vehicle handling work at FCA Canada’s Windsor Assembly Plant effective Jan. 1, 2021," Tony De Thomasis, CEO of Essex Terminal Railway and its MotiPark, said in a statement. "We have our own workforce in place, represented by the Teamsters Union. Should the need arise in the future for new hires, we will be happy to consider the prior vendor's employees."

Unifor Local 444 members form a blockade at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Windsor Assembly Plant in Ontario. The union is angered after a new FCA contractor says it plans to use Teamsters labor instead of the Unifor members.

Unifor members employed by the previous supplier, Auto Warehousing Co., received minivans from the Windsor plant and drove and parked them for delivery.

Fiat Chrysler confirmed the change in its supplier following a competitive bid process last year, but declined to comment on the blockade and its potential impact on production. The Windsor plant employs 4,464 hourly workers and 207 salaried on two shifts.

The Teamsters have represented workers within Essex Terminal Railway's family of companies for years, union spokesman Christopher Monette said in a statement, "making our union a natural fit to represent the new Motipark workers at the Windsor Assembly Plant."

He added that the union welcomes Unifor's claim with the labor relations board to find a solution and that the Teamsters would "fully comply" with any resulting decision.

Meanwhile, the blockade continues with restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic limiting the number of people participating in the blockade at a time, Local 444 noted.

Still, "Nobody in, Nobody out!" Cassidy wrote.

Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy joins members on the blockade line at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Windsor Assembly Plant in Ontario. The union is angered after a new FCA contractor says it plans to use Teamsters labor instead of the Unifor members.

Windsor produces a majority of the Chrysler brand's vehicles, including the Pacifica and Voyager (branded as Grand Caravan in Canada) minivans. It ended production of the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan this summer and cut the plant's third shift, laying off 1,500 workers. Under a new contract negotiated last year, however, Fiat Chrysler will invest $1.13 billion into the plant to support plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicles. The commitment will add more than 2,000 jobs starting in 2023 and resume the third shift.

Chrysler sold more than 96,500 Chrysler Pacificas, Voyagers and Grand Caravans in 2020 in Canada and the United States, a decrease of 5%. It also sold less than 62,000 Dodge Caravans, a 59% drop.

bnoble@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble