Windsor Star

Fabco workers OK closure deal

Told their last day will be Dec. 31 during sometimes raucous 21⁄ hour meeting

- BY DON LAJOIE STAR STAFF REPORTER

The comment of one worker leaving the meeting — “I’m going to take the money and run. I don’t trust this company” — set the tone Sunday as 160 employees facing layoff voted 96 per cent in favour of a plant closure agreement at Fabco, a plant with a 60-year history.

CAW Local 195 president Gerry Farnham said that employees voted on a deal at the Fogolar Furlan Club that “ensures our members receive all the benefits they are entitled to and allows us to move forward with dignity and clarity.”

The employees were told their final day at the Division Road auto parts plant will be Dec. 31.

Talks between the union and plant’s owner, Martinrea Internatio­nal Inc., to keep operations going stalled last month and negotiatio­ns on a closure deal commenced. Farnham told the workers in attendance that the union did the best it could in the closure talks.

“We worked over the weeks and put together an agreement and it’s a de- cent package, considerin­g the circumstan­ces,” Farnham said in an interview following the sometimes raucous 21⁄ hour closed-door meeting. “The mood was all over the place. There was some anger and frustratio­n. All in all, they supported the union. They know we did the best we could.”

The deal means the most senior employees are eligible for $68,000 in severance. Those with five years seniority would get $8,500 and new hires will pocket $2,500. Farnham said the actual numbers for each of the 260 employees are “all over the map.” He said the average seniority level is between 18 and 19 years and the average salary was $27.50 an hour.

Employees will also be eligible for post-retirement benefits ranging from one month of coverage for those with the least seniority, to 15 months following terminatio­n for those with the most years of service.

In addition, the employees will have successor rights if the corporatio­n reconstitu­tes and begins operations again as a new company.

One 23-year employee, who did not wish to be identified, said the deal “seems fair” and that, after all the fear and uncertaint­y of the past few months, “people are resigned” to the closeout.

“It was a mixed mood,” said the press operator. “We were finding out how we’re going to be treated. Some people got a little hot. But we’ve still got to live once we’re done here.”

Another employee, who declined to be identified, said he wouldn’t be surprised to eventually see the plant reopen under a new name and with a staff about one- third the size.

“Right now you really don’t know what the hell is going on,” he said. “Anything could happen. (The company) could broker a last-minute deal with Chrysler and keep going on some level. Lay off two-thirds and keep going with what they’ve got.”

Farnham said he had not heard of such a scenario.

But, in any eventualit­y, the union maintains successor rights and the company would still have to deal with the CAW.

He added that the Fabco workforce has proven to be a pillar of the community during its 60-year existence, as strong supporters of the United Way and other local charities and a staunch supporter of workers at sister plants throughout the region.

“They once bailed out the Downtown Mission with a pool tournament,” he said. “And if there was a strike anywhere you could always count on the Fabco members’ support.”

 ?? Star photo: Dan Janisse ?? FAREWELL FABCO: Fabco workers vote on a closure package Sunday at the Fogolar Furlan Club.They approved the deal with 96 per cent support.
Star photo: Dan Janisse FAREWELL FABCO: Fabco workers vote on a closure package Sunday at the Fogolar Furlan Club.They approved the deal with 96 per cent support.

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