Judge orders end to strike at GM supplier Nemak in Canada

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WINDSOR, Ont. — Canada’s Unifor union must pay a $75,000 fine ($56,000 USD), deconstruct barriers and end a wildcat strike at a GM supplier here, an Ontario Superior Court Justice ruled late Friday.

Justice Terrance Patterson found Unifor National President Jerry Dias, Unifor Local 200 President John D’Agnolo, Vice-president Tim Little and plant chair Mike Jobin guilty of contempt for their part in prolonging an illegal strike at Nemak, which builds engine blocks here. The four were not personally fined in the matter. The union, representing the 270 workers, refused to adhere to Patterson’s previous ruling that Unifor obey an Ontario Labour Relations Board decision, ordering and end to the strike.

Union members walked off the job Labor Day and have been on the picket line ever since to protest the company’s plan to close the plant in mid-2020. The employees build engine blocks for a Cadillac vehicle assembled in China, the I-6 engine blocks for the Chevrolet Silverado assembled in Flint, Mich., and the Corvette engine block and bedplate.

When Nemak announced the pending closure in July, it said the decision came on the back of “the expected withdrawal from an export program by a client in China,” which would lead the plant to use less than 10 percent of its installed capacity by 2020. Nemak said the Windsor plant is now too small and too inefficient to remain open as the company expands elsewhere in the world. The company said it recently purchased larger businesses outside of Canada that came with existing plants and capacity.

The union claimed Nemak and Unifor “agreed that the Windsor plant would be the sole source for General Motors I-6 engine blocks and engine blocks and bedplates for the Corvette.” Unifor alleged Nemak has violated the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, which is set to expire in 2022.

Barricades at all three entrances to Nemak must be removed by 12 a.m. EDT Sunday in order to allow work to resume at 11 p.m. that day, Patterson ruled. The union will be fined $10,000 per day ($7,500 USD) if it refuses to remove the blockade. The four union members in contempt of court will each be fined, $1,000 ($750 USD) per day.

Unifor officials at both the national and local level said they would meet Saturday and review Patterson’s ruling before deciding their next step.

Nemak did not respond to requests from comment.

General Motors said Thursday that the shutdown has had no impact on production of either the Chevy Silverado or Corvette.

Dias said at a rally on Thursday the collective agreement also calls for new product to be introduced into the plant before 2022, which would allow it to remain operational. He also said company officials had promised that the plant would be awarded a new product.

Nemak has not commented on new product. But the company insisted it was adhering to the collective agreement.

“The collective agreement was negotiated based on market conditions and volume forecasts in 2016. Those volumes projections and market conditions have changed significantly,” Nemak said. “This volume development makes the operation not viable. 

“Under the existing labor agreement, Nemak has the right to cease operations under adverse volume conditions with 60-day advanced notice. 

“The collective agreement has full plant closure provisions which Nemak has adhered to.”

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