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Unifor removes blockade at FCA's Windsor plant after drivers return to job

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Production resumed on Monday at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's minivan assembly plant in Windsor after Canadian labor union Unifor removed its blockade formed in protest to a change in logistics supplier that did not use Unifor labor.

The contract is for receiving the new minivans and parking them for delivery. The Italian American automaker contacted its former supplier, Auto Warehousing Co., to run the business for now with Unifor labor, Local 444 President Dave Cassidy said on Facebook.

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.

FCA declined to comment on the situation, but confirmed production had resumed after the plant was scheduled to idle last week. The Windsor plant employs 4,464 hourly workers and 207 salaried on two shifts. AWC did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Windsor-based Motipark Ltd. won the contract in a competitive bid process last year. It, however, employs members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The change that took place Jan. 1 affected 60 Unifor members.

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.

"We have had a breakthrough with the blockade that we have had up at the AWC releasing yard," Cassidy wrote. "Motipark the employer who won the contract believes they can simply lower workers worth and not recognize our union is woefully misguided and this won’t be tolerated."

The temporary agreement with AWC is for the next 30 days so a permanent solution can be found, Teamsters spokesman Christopher Monette said in a statement.

"At this time, our members at Motipark continue to be protected by a Teamster collective agreement and are still being paid," he said. "We are exploring all available options at this time to find a permanent solution for the hard-working employees of Motipark."

Motipark's CEO did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Cassidy previously said Unifor was filing an application under Section 69 of the Ontario Labour Relations Act challenging Motipark’s responsibilities under successor rights, a step the Teamsters said is the preferred option.

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