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Dave Waddell, Windsor Star
March 29, 2019
The impact of FCA Canada’s announcement on Thursday that it would eliminate a shift and up to 1,500 jobs at its Windsor Assembly Plant quickly spread to the plant’s Tier 1 suppliers.
Magna International confirmed Friday that its Integram Windsor Seating plant in Lakeshore would mimic Windsor Assembly’s schedule.
“We are matching FCA’s production schedule by moving to two shifts; up to 300 employees could be affected,” said Scott Worden, Magna’s senior manager of corporate communications and public relations.
“That’s a normal part of the business at a just-in-time, fully sequenced seating operation — we match the customer’s production schedule.”
With the news of more job losses, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains emphasized Friday the short-term concern is on supporting the affected workers.
“We’re focused on buffering the impact for them,” Dilkens said.
“The company has assured it’ll try to help those eligible to retire and lessen the number of layoffs. We’re working with the province’s rapid re-employment team.
“We also have city programs to help line people up with open positions.”
Bains said he intended to discuss with FCA Canada president Reid Bigland what the government could do to entice getting the company to invest in the plant.
“Absolutely,” said Bains on whether that included landing a new product for Windsor.
“We’re here to talk about the path forward. We want to make sure we see more investments in the Windsor community and the auto sector.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who was attending the launch of Toyota’s new RAV4 SUV in Cambridge on Friday, said he’s reached out to Fiat Chrysler and Unifor national president Jerry Dias about the loss of the shift.
“While today is a great day for autoworkers in Cambridge, it’s also a very difficult day for their counterparts at FCA in Windsor,” Ford said.
“I share your disappointment but I also share your resolve — whatever happens next, our government will always stand behind you, fight for you and fight alongside you.”
Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, said in addition to the 1,500 FCA employees, workers at Tier 1 suppliers to the Windsor plant, like Integram, would be most affected. “It’s not the same as Oshawa,” Volpe said.
“We don’t have a plant shutting and the end of a program. As hard as it is for the 1,500 employees and their families, the plant still has two shifts.
“It’s still considered a healthy plant.”
Jonathon Azzopardi, president of the Canadian Association of Mold Makers, said the local mould-making and tool and die industry is much better positioned to handle Thursday’s bad news than a decade ago.
However, there’s no escaping the multiplier effect of the loss of jobs at an auto plant, he said.
“You’re looking at least a 5-to-1 multiplier effect,” Azzopardi said. “Fifteen hundred jobs at FCA is 7,500 jobs across Essex County. We’re going to feel it.”
Volpe said the supply chain locally as well as provincially in the auto industry won’t be damaged significantly by the loss of one shift.
“The pain will be mostly in Windsor because it affects one shift, at one plant, with one company and one segment,” Volpe said. “However, that doesn’t lessen the pain for those affected.”
Volpe said the auto parts sector has seen a bump in sales since the NAFTA negotiations were settled. Windsor-based suppliers, he added, also expect to pick up business from FCA’s US$4.5-billion investment in a new Detroit plant.
Azzopardi said the local mould-making and tool and die companies aren’t tied to one plant in the way some Tier 1 suppliers are. Area companies have also become more global, having plants elsewhere, and have diversified their customer bases as well as the industries they serve, he said.
“About 90 per cent of what our members do is exported,” said Azzopardi, who is also president of Windsor’s Laval Tool. “We’re still 70-per-cent automotive in the area, but now companies have two or three major customers.
“We need to look at what we do in auto and look to apply it in new ways in other sectors.”
Just as local suppliers learned the hard lessons from 2008 to 2010, Azzopardi said the lessons of Oshawa’s GM plant shutdown must also be learned.
“We’re where Oshawa was 10 years ago,” Azzopardi said. “We still have a chance to do something about the sustainability of the plant.”
Stephen MacKenzie, CEO of the Windsor Economic Development Corporation, called the loss of the third shift a surprise.
“It’s a canary in the coal mine,” MacKenzie said. “We can’t wait.
“To keep workers we need to innovate, embrace technology, and we’ve been expanding our activity recruiting new companies.”
The advice for workers affected by FCA’s decision is that they shouldn’t wait either to prepare for their future.
“It’s a call to action,” said Justin Falconer, senior director at Workforce WindsorEssex.
“Don’t wait six months to seek help. There are employment supports, training programs available you can take in the evening or on weekends.
“Even health and safety training, a CPR or forklift certificate can give you an edge.”
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