Ford Motor Co. is cutting about 185 jobs at its Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant in September amid slowing demand for crossovers built at the factory, with the potential for more cutbacks in January, according to Unifor.
Dave Thomas, president of Unifor Local 707 in Oakville, which represents workers at the plant, said in a post on the local’s website that the company is implementing changes to operations at the factory.
The changes include the elimination of one of three shifts at the plant’s paint shop, as well as reducing production by about five units per hour beginning in January, according to the union.
“Adding to the bad news, the company predicts based on the number of job reductions in August they foresee a permanent layoff of approximately 185 members in September 2019, with a possibility of additional members laid off in January 2020,” Thomas wrote in the post, pinning the changes on “cost expenses and slowing sales.”
Ford said Friday the company has “a long-standing practice of matching production with consumer demand. As a result, we are making changes to the operating pattern” at the Oakville plant.
Thomas and other Unifor officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. According to Ford’s website, the Oakville plant employs about 4,600 workers. The factory produces the Ford Edge, Ford Flex, Lincoln MKT and Lincoln Nautilus crossovers.
The job cuts come as new-vehicle demand slows in the United States and Canada. U.S. sales of the Edge, the highest-volume model assembled at Oakville, fell 5.6 percent in the first half of the year. In Canada, Edge volume rose 5.7 percent through June.
The plant produced 132,407 vehicles in the first six months of the year, down 2 percent from a year earlier, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
In addition to a cooling North American market, Ford in June said it would limit European sales of the Edge to just seven countries, with higher emissions taxes dampening demand. Ford had previously told Automotive News Canada that the decision to cut back in Europe would not impact production at the Oakville plant.
Thomas, in the post on the Unifor local’s website, said the union and Ford had been in discussions for “several weeks,” and it was attempting to “persuade the company from somehow avoiding this scenario.”
“As always, it’s based on a business decision and it all comes down to dollars and cents,” Thomas wrote. “Once again, our biggest concern was preserving good paying jobs and uprooting people’s lives.”
Ford joins General Motors and Fiat Chrysler in planning job cuts at assembly operations in Canada this year. GM is converting an Oshawa, Ontario, assembly plant into a supplier factory and test track in 2020, putting all but about 300 workers at the plant out of work. FCA plans to end the third production shift at its Windsor, Ontario, minivan plant in October, cutting about 1,500 jobs.
The Ontario government is working to support the auto industry through its Driving Prosperity program.
"We are disappointed to learn of Ford's decision to issue layoff notices to workers at the Oakville Assembly Complex," said Robert Gibson, spokesman for Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli.
He said the ministry of training, colleges and universities has been in contact to offer support to the affected workers, but that Ford has told the government it has made its own arrangements to assist those losing their job.
The cuts come as the Canadian new-vehicle market has posted 16 consecutive monthly sales declines. In the U.S., industry sales have slipped six straight months.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.