Workers, Unifor to ignore ruling to cease protest at Nemak

Jerry Dias speaks to the crowd at the Nemak Plant in Windsor on September 2, 2019. (Photo by Allanah Wills)

Workers will continue to protest the planned closure of the Nemak plant in Windsor, despite a recent ruling ordering them to cease and desist.

On Wednesday at around 4 p.m., the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) sided with an application filed by the company, and ordered that unionized workers must end the blockade at the plant. However,  Unifor Local 200 President John D’Agnolo said he has no intention of following the order.

“I’ve taken the stance that we’re going to continue protesting it, regardless of the order, because it’s our workers’ livelihoods on the line,” he said. “The OLRB made the wrong decision. I can’t stand for our jobs going to Mexico. I cannot see the families at Nemak lose their livelihoods.”

The 270 workers, represented by Local 200, walked off the job on Monday in response to the company’s announcement that it would shut down in the middle of next year. Unifor has accused the company of breaking its contract with workers.

RELATED: Nemak threatens to go to Ontario Labour Relations Board over blockade

D’Agnolo said he was shocked that the OLRB sided with Nemak, which called the protest and barricade “an illegal stoppage to our operations.”

“When you break a contract like this and you know the work is going to Mexico, I can’t believe they went ahead and said we need to cease. I thought they would tell [Nemak] let’s get to the table and have a discussion. But unfortunately, that was not the case,” said D’Agnolo, adding that he expects some form of recourse from the OLRB and the company for refusing to comply with the cease and desist order. “They’re going to challenge me on it, and I’m going to have to take that challenge on… Whoever is stopping [the company] from running production, they’re going to go after them.”

The union president added that he has urged the company on three separate occasions to meet with the union to discuss ways to keep the plant operating in Windsor. However, he says the company has not responded.

“They want to move to Mexico and we can’t allow that to happen,” he said. “These are a lot of families affected by this and I could not allow that to happen.”

Nemak refuted that claim on Tuesday and issued a statement that said it is “in favour of re-establishing a constructive dialogue.”

The company has been criticized since the closure of the Windsor plant was announced, because the company has accepted $4.5 million in provincial and federal funding since 2015.

-With files from Adelle Loiselle.