Windsor auto workers looking for a Hail Mary

Photo of the Windsor Assembly Plant, September 4 2017. (Photo by Adelle Loiselle)

Work continues to save the third shift at the Windsor Assembly Plant.

Unifor Local 444 said the union and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have recently sent the federal government a request for a meeting to explore any avenues to help the plant weather the current storm and allow time to get a better read on how current global factors will affect production in the future.

In a June update to its members, Unifor Local 444 said FCA intended to canvass the most senior workers by the end of May to determine who was eligible for a retirement package but that hasn’t happened.

“We have been successful in convincing the upper echelon of FCA management to hold off temporarily on canvassing our members for retirement packages,” said Unifor.

The federal government, Unifor Local 444 said, will be reaching out to the union soon to discuss the matter.

“We have been pushing the company away from that agenda and continue to do everything in our power to save the third shift,” the union said.

Unifor Local 444 added that several union officers and plant leadership have had several meetings with top FCA management and the automaker has outlined that their projections have changed since 2016 and the new numbers call for a two-shift operation at the Windsor Assembly Plant.

The union said it has been putting together forecasts of its own and has a different opinion than the automaker.

Unifor Local 444 said factors that affect the third shift are the approval of the new NAFTA by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico; U.S. taxes on steel and aluminium that have recently been lifted; the pending end of production of the Dodge Grand Caravan; and new investment or product to fill the gap left by the Caravan.

“All of these things make it very difficult to accurately predict production numbers at the WAP not just in the short term, but also long into the future,” added the union.

The third shift is expected to come to an end September 30 because the automaker said the Chrysler Pacifica minivan isn’t selling well.