Unifor, FCA execs to meet as union aims to save jobs at minivan plant

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Fiat Chrysler executives and Unifor leadership will meet on Wednesday, nearly three weeks after the automaker said it would eliminate one of three shifts at its Windsor, Ont., assembly plant.

FCA plans to cut the third shift at Windsor Assembly, which builds the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, by Sept. 30 in the wake of softening North American minivan sales. The move would eliminate about 1,500 jobs.

Unifor spokeswoman Kathleen O’Keefe confirmed the Wednesday meeting. FCA Canada spokeswoman Lou Ann Gosselin told Automotive News Canada that she “can’t comment on internal business meetings.”

It is not clear which FCA executives would attend the meeting.

Unifor President Jerry Dias and other union leaders have been critical of FCA’s decision and said they will insist that the automaker assign new production to the plant. Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy said during a March 28 press conference that if FCA decides to add a new product to its lineup, “you’re going to build it in Windsor.”

“Give us whatever they want, we will build it,” he said.

Cassidy could not be reached for comment on Monday. Messages left for Dias and Dino Chiodo, Unifor’s automotive director, were not returned.

The plant currently employs about 6,000 workers and has for years operated on three shifts, six days per week, producing about 1,500 vehicles per day at full capacity. Softening minivan sales have changed FCA’s plans, however. Pacifica’s U.S. sales declined 29 percent during the first quarter to 23,274 units, while Grand Caravan sales fell 18 percent to 35,440 deliveries.

Workers returned to the assembly line on Monday following a two-week shutdown.

GM talks

Unifor has also in recent weeks been engaged in negotiations with General Motors regarding the future of its Oshawa, Ont., assembly plant. GM plans to end production at the plant by year’s end. 

Earlier this month, Unifor Local 222 President Colin James told Automotive News Canada that the union expected to hear back from GM by April 12 about its proposal to save some jobs at the plant. It was not clear if the union had heard from GM on the matter. O’Keefe, the Unifor spokeswoman, said the union is not “commenting on GM while negotiations continue.”

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