In a bid to end an illegal strike at its Canadian parts plant, Nemak says it is willing to hold discussions with Unifor, although the company insists it is following the terms of the full plant closure notice language in its collective bargaining agreement with the union.
About 270 unionized employees who build I-6 engine blocks for the Chevrolet Silverado assembled in Flint, Mich., walked off the job Sept. 2 in protest of Nemak’s decision to shutter the plant in mid-2020.
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 says the Windsor plant is now too small and too inefficient to remain open as the company expands elsewhere in the world. The company says it recently purchased larger businesses outside of Canada that came with existing plants and capacity.
So far, Unifor members in Windsor have halted production, erected barricades at each of the three entrances and refused entry by management, except to finalize a week’s worth of overdue payroll.
“The union is well informed as to the sharp decline in customer demand and the fact that declining customer volumes dictated the closure,” Nemak said in a statement Monday morning. “The union filed a grievance on August 29th, as is permitted by the agreement, and the Company replied to the grievance on September 3, also in accordance with the collective agreement.
“Unfortunately, the union elected to promote and engage in an ongoing unlawful strike commencing on September 2, rather than avail itself of the additional discussion and meeting steps permitted under the grievance process.”
Unifor officials met with Nemak CEO Armando Tamez Martinez during the last week of August in Monterey, but talks were unproductive, Unifor President Jerry Dias said.
Unifor Local 200 President John D’Agnolo, who represents the 270 workers in Windsor, said last week no talks have been held since then.
Nemak now says it is willing to meet with union executives.
“Notwithstanding this unlawful course of conduct, the Company remains ready to discuss the union’s grievance in accordance with the collective agreement,” Nemak said. “In this regard, the Company is prepared to extend the [grievance] time limits already expired, until further notice.”
A Superior Court judge on Sept 5 ordered the protesting members to deconstruct the barricades, end their standoff and immediately head back to work, but the union refuses to comply. D’Agnolo is set to appear in Superior Court on Tuesday in Windsor, where he’s to face charges of contempt for not adhering to the court injunction.
D’Agnolo called Nemak’s offer “good news because in the grievance it says we want to keep the plant open.”
“I’m willing to talk any time,” he said.
Nemak said if nothing can be resolved through talks that "a referral to arbitration would be the next appropriate and lawful next step.”
A Unifor spokesman say the union is trying to stage a 3,000-person rally Tuesday on a vacant lot adjacent to the plant.
A General Motors spokesman in the United States said Monday that there has been no impact on Silverado production.