Countdown on to save Unifor jobs
Union says cost-saving proposal ‘clear victory’ for FCA employees
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has given Unifor Local 444 until mid-August to present the company with cost-savings proposals to preserve 285 trucking jobs at the Windsor Assembly Plant that had been slated for outsourcing.
“This is a clear victory, because if we didn’t do this, we would already be potentially outsourced by Sept. 24,” Unifor Local 444 president Dino Chiodo told reporters after a membership meeting at the Caboto Club on Sunday.
It buys the union time to come up with a new proposal and “figure out how to save the department long term,” he said.
FCA Canada has threatened to outsource the transportation of parts used at the Windsor plant where the Chrysler Pacifica, Pacifica Hybrid and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans are built. That would affect 285 Unifor members, including skilled-trades workers, clerks, management and drivers. The company’s outsourcing plan didn’t affect the jobs of those who transport the minivans.
Union leaders told about 300 members gathered at the information meeting Sunday that FCA Canada had rescinded its letter issued in the spring announcing its intention to outsource the work.
Reporters outside the closeddoor meeting could hear bursts of applause intermingled with frustrated voices as Unifor leaders explained the next steps.
With the company’s Sept. 24 deadline looming, Chiodo called the announced outsourcing of the transportation department “a little bit of a cloud that’s been over our head.”
At 10 p.m. Saturday, on the eve of the previously announced membership meeting, Chiodo said the union received word from the company that the outsourcing would be suspended while costsaving measures were discussed to “save the department and hopefully maintain the department long term.
“So we know that’s a victory, we’re excited about that,” he said.
FCA officials declined to comment.
The union will form a committee composed of three people from the trades and three people from the transportation division, plus support groups from the union and the assembly plant, Chiodo said.
The committee and FCA will begin considering cost-saving initiatives as early as Monday morning, Chiodo said. The union will propose measures by Aug. 18.
“From there, they can either agree that we are where we need to be to be competitive and maintain the department or they need to reissue the letter,” Chiodo said.
If the letter is reissued, the union and company will go to expedited arbitration.
Chiodo said the union would have moved to arbitration immediately if he wasn’t confident that cost-saving measures can avoid outsourcing.
“Soft suggestions” for cost-saving initiatives have already been provided by FCA, he added.
Some union members are frustrated, but Chiodo said he is confident that they are in a good position going forward.
“We’re happy that we’re moving forward and we’re doing what’s in the best interest of the department, the facility and the plant — but sometimes it’s not perfect,” he said.
John Kowalski, who works in the FCA transportation department, said Sunday’s meeting was one of the longest he’s attended in his 19 years in the industry.
“Obviously there’s some dissension among the membership that we have to come up with these cost savings,” he said. “I want to emphasize the fact that it is a step
in the right direction, but there’s still a certain level of uncertainty with respect to our futures in this department.”
None of the affected Unifor members left Sunday’s meeting hanging their heads, Kowalski said.
The consensus was that the union is doing everything possible to keep the jobs, but doing so isn’t easy, he said.
Unifor Local 444 president Dino Chiodo, centre, said Sunday the union has been given the green light to come up with a proposal to save 285 trucking jobs at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Windsor Assembly Plant that otherwise would have been outsourced by Sept. 24.