MPPs ask premier for help as Nemak blockade continues

Unifor Local 200 president John D'Agnolo, third from right, Local 444 president Dave Cassidy, second right, and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, far right, join union members outside the Nemak plant in Windsor, September 3, 2019. Photo courtesy Unifor Local 444/Twitter.

The three NDP MPPs for Windsor-Essex are turning to Ontario Premier Doug Ford for guidance in the ongoing Nemak drama.

A letter signed by Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky, Windsor-Tecumseh’s Percy Hatfield and Taras Natyshak of Essex was sent Thursday evening to the premier. In it, Ford is asked to show support for the 270 employees at Nemak’s Windsor facility.

The employees walked out on Labour Day and have barricaded the property ever since, refusing to open the plant until Nemak agrees to reconsider closing the plant next summer.

The MPPs have urged Ford to show solidarity with the workers and support business in Windsor-Essex. The letter reminded the premier that Nemak, which had been entitled to millions of federal and provincial dollars, reneged on their pledge to keep the plant running until at least 2022.

“The workers had agreed to a wage freeze with the promise that their jobs would be secure until 2022. Now they feel like they have been double-crossed,” read the letter. “Unifor and the workers they represent fully understand that there are changing economic conditions in Windsor and across Ontario, and they worked with Nemak to address this when the contract was negotiated. Now, because Nemak refuses to work within that agreement, the workers find themselves having to fight for their jobs and have taken over the plant in protest.”

A Superior Court judge in Windsor upheld a ruling by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), ordering Unifor Local 200 to remove their blockade and resume production at the plant. Union members, however, have said “no way”.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens was among elected officials who stopped by the blockade this week to show displeasure for Nemak’s handling of the situation. In their letter to the premier, the MPPs asked Ford to stand by the workers as well.

“Fight alongside them, show leadership, and let Nemak know that breaking contracts is not acceptable,” read the letter. “They need to live up to the agreement that they signed on to, just as they expect the workers to.”

Nemak announced earlier this summer that it was closing the Windsor plant due to changes in an export program with China. The company has promised to open a dialogue with Unifor and the employees to ensure a smooth transition once the plant closes.