The Windsor (Ontario) Assembly Plant would see as much as $1.5 billion (Canadian dollars) in investment and 2,000 jobs as part of the tentative deal Unifor reached with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles this week, according to the union’s national President Jerry Dias.
The company also committed to launching a second vehicle platform at the Windsor plant in 2024, one to build plug-in hybrid and/or battery-electric vehicles, in addition to the current platform for the Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager minivans, Dias said during a news conference broadcast Thursday on Facebook. The news would mean the addition of at least one new model in 2025, and the return of the plant’s third shift.
Dias said the tentative agreement affecting most of FCA’s 9,000 union workers, which was announced just minutes before an 11:59 p.m. strike deadline Wednesday, helps stabilize the operations at Windsor.
Those operations had been the biggest concern for the union in the talks with FCA because of the loss of the third shift and its 1,500 jobs there this summer, and the expectation that it was quite likely there would be more layoffs in Windsor, Dias said, noting that 425 workers are on layoff there.
“This is a huge commitment to our plant. It is a huge commitment to our members. This, I would argue, is a homerun for the community in Windsor,” Dias said.
Dias was asked whether the proposed merger with Peugeot-maker PSA Group had affected the talks, but he indicated the “elephant in the room” was actually the stability in Windsor.
The three-year agreement, which will see members weigh in with their votes beginning Sunday morning, ultimately followed the pattern set by talks with Ford, according to the union. The deals includes a signing bonus, 5% wage increases, a return of shift premiums and restoration of a wage differential for skilled trades.
“It is about the best economic agreement we put together in, I would argue, 25 years,” Dias said.
Unknown is the status of a potential government sweetener as was offered to Ford. As part of the deal to bring battery-electric vehicle production to Ford’s Oakville Assembly Plant, the federal and provincial governments agreed to each contribute $295 million (Canadian dollars). Dias indicated that he has been involved in discussions, but he did not provide details, saying that FCA would provide the bulk of the investment connected to the tentative deal.
FCA has acknowledged that the deal was reached with the union, but said that details would be revealed at a later date.
The FCA deal also includes commitments for the Brampton Assembly Plant, where the Dodge Charger and Challenger and the Chrysler 300 are built. No new vehicles were announced, but three “derivatives” would be launched during the course of the contract, and $50 million would be invested to extend the life of the 300. That’s very much in keeping with FCA’s approach in recent years to those aging platforms, by adding attention-grabbing, high-horsepower variations, such as the Dodge Demon and the various Hellcat offerings.
Dias called the planned derivatives “buzz vehicles to enhance the existing portfolio.”
The Etobicoke Casting Plant in Toronto would see the recall of more than 100 workers, Dias said. A news release said the plant would see more work related to high-volume Jeep Wrangler nine-speed transmissions.
Unifor, which represents more than 19,000 autoworkers among the Detroit Three, will next turn its attention to General Motors. Dias expected those negotiations would begin next week.
“We’ll see where we end up,” he said.
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