Auto Parts Assembler Aims to End Illegal Strike; Unifor Leader Faces Contempt Charges
WINDSOR, ON—Automotive supplier Nemak says it is willing to hold discussions with Unifor in a bid to end an illegal strike at its assembly plant here.
About 270 unionized employees walked off the job Sept. 2 in protest of Nemak’s decision to shutter the plant, which makes engine blocks for the Chevrolet Silverado assembled in Flint, MI, in mid-2020.
In July, Nemak announced that it would close the facility next year after “the expected withdrawal from an export program by a client in China,” which would lead the plant to use less than 10 percent of its installed capacity. Nemak says the Windsor plant is now too small and too inefficient to remain open as the company expands elsewhere in the world. The company says it recently purchased larger businesses outside of Canada that came with existing plants and capacity.
In response, Unifor members in Windsor have halted production, erected barricades at each of the plant’s three entrances, and refused entry by management, except to finalize a week’s worth of overdue payroll.
“The union is well-informed as to the sharp decline in customer demand and the fact that declining customer volumes dictated the closure,” said Nemak in a statement Sept. 9. “The union filed a grievance on Aug. 29, as is permitted by the agreement, and the company replied to the grievance on Sept. 3, also in accordance with the collective agreement.
“Unfortunately, the union elected to promote and engage in an ongoing unlawful strike commencing on Sept. 2, rather than avail itself of the additional discussion and meeting steps permitted under the grievance process.”
Unifor officials met with Nemak CEO Armando Tamez Martinez during the last week of August in Monterey, Mexico, but talks were unproductive. No talks have been held since then, but Nemak says it is willing to meet with union executives.
“Notwithstanding this unlawful course of conduct, the company remains ready to discuss the union’s grievance in accordance with the collective agreement,” Nemak says. “In this regard, the company is prepared to extend the [grievance] time limits already expired, until further notice.”
A Superior Court judge on Sept. 5 ordered the protesting members to deconstruct the barricades, end their standoff, and immediately head back to work, but the union has refused to comply. Unifor Local 200 President John D’Agnolo, who represents the workers in Windsor, is set to appear in Superior Court on Tuesday in Windsor, where he’s to face charges of contempt for not adhering to the court injunction.
A General Motors spokesman in the United States said Sept. 9 that there has been no impact on Silverado production.