VIDEO: Hundreds Rally to Support Unifor Blockade at Nemak

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A rally at the plant gates of Nemak in west Windsor has sent a clear message to the company.

Backed by leadership and members of numerous unions, Unifor has made it clear the blockade isn't going anywhere.

On Labour Day Monday, the union set up the blockade after the company refused to budge on its plan to close the factory by the middle of next year.

Hundreds of people, waving flags and cheering showed solidarity for the Unifor position during a rally near the Windsor plant on Thursday. 

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Hundreds rally to support Unifor's blockade of the Windsor Nemak plant, G.N. Booth Dr., September 12, 2019 (by AM800's Peter Langille)

Ontario Public Service Employees Union President "Smokey" Thomas says the company took taxpayer dollars with a pledge to stay in Canada.

"There ought to be a law in Canada.  If you take corporate welfare, take the taxpayers dollars, and then you want to screw off with that money" says Thomas, "they should at minimum have to pay it back and pay some pretty hefty penalties for leaving our country."

Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rivzi had a message to local Nemak workers.

"You are not alone, you are not 200 members, you are 168,000 members of Unifor in Ontario, you stand here, stand proud, one day longer, stronger one, one day longer, one day stronger," says Rivzi.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation President Harvey Bischoff says his membership has empathy for the situation.

"My members know what it's like to have a contract ripped up and thrown in their face" explained Bischoff.  "And in that case it was the government doing it. In you case it's a greedy corporation, you need a government that's going to stand shoulder to shoulder with you and help you build the jobs and the communities that we need."

Unifor President Jerry Dias says they'll stay on the blockade line as long as it takes.

"We're here because we're not taking this crap anymore" blasted Dias. "And Nemak if you don't like it you can kiss my union ass."

Dias says he dislikes the idea of the company getting Ontario courts to do their dirty work.

But he made it clear the only way this issue will be resolved is at the bargaining table.

Unifor says Nemak signed a contract promising workers to keep the plant operating until 2022, not next year.

Nemak also issued a statement on Thursday, after the two sides talked on Wednesday on a conference call and in a face to face meeting. 

The company sauys throughout these two negotiation attempts, the union members said they are not interested in making their position flexible, and they are not negotiating anything less than Nemak rescinding the plant closure announcement and keeping the plant open at least until January 2022.

Nemak says it is not able to continue operations of the Windsor facility until January 2022 given the current volumes that make us operate at less than 10 percent capacity utilization.

The two sides are scheduled to return to court on Friday at 2 p.m. over contempt of court charges filed by Nemak after the union ignored a ruling by the Labour Relations Board and a judge, calling for the unlawful strike to end. 

-- with files from AM800's Rob Hindi