Worried workers shouldn’t be forced to return to factories, Canada’s Unifor says

Windsor plant concerns

He pointed to Fiat Chrysler’s Windsor, Canada, assembly plant as an example of a factory where workers are particularly worried because the city borders Detroit, among the U.S. cities hit hardest by the pandemic. The Windsor plant builds the Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Voyager and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans.

“Our members are watching very closely what’s happening in Detroit and Michigan,” Dias said. “It’s a different animal [in Canada], but the simple reality is our members in Canada, by and large, many of them don’t want to go to work at all because they’re nervous and there’s a lot of mistrust.”

Dias on Thursday said he understood why the UAW would oppose the early May production startup because the United States has been hit harder by the pandemic than Canada has. The U.S. has the most confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths of any country in the world.

FCA has said it aims to progressively restart its Canadian and U.S. plants beginning May 4. Automotive News reported on April 16 that the company targeted that day to reopen its Brampton, Ont., assembly plant, followed by a May 18 restart date for Windsor Assembly.

Ford Motor Co. and General Motors have not publicly committed to a timeline, though Automotive News reported that information given to employees and suppliers indicated they were considering a similar time frame. Michigan’s current stay-at-home order runs through May 15.

Supply chain issues

There also are questions about the readiness of the North American supply chain. For automakers to resume production, suppliers theoretically must begin manufacturing parts and components a few days ahead of their customers to ensure timely deliveries.

This uncertainty has created confusion throughout the supply chains as plans to resume production conflict with stay-at-home orders in Michigan and other states.

Earlier this week, French supplier Faurecia originally planned to resume parts production in Saline, Mich., for customer Tesla Inc., on Monday, April 27, even though Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state-at-home orders remained in effect.  The company has since pushed back its restart date twice until at least May 16.

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