MP's raising alarm over use of temporary foreign workers being used to set up NextStar battery plant

The future site of an electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Windsor, Ont. Stellantis and LG Energy Solution made the announcement alongside government officials on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (Rich Garton/CTV Windsor)

Some MP's are raising the alarm over the use of temporary foreign workers being used to set up the NextStar Energy electric vehicle battery plant.

In a letter submitted Friday to the Chair of the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology, signed by four Conservative MP's and New Democrat Windsor - West MP Brian Masse, they requested an emergency meeting to 'fight for Canadian jobs'. 

The letter states the initial job postings received a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), indicating the positions require the use of temporary foreign workers.

Masse says he's being told they are expecting thousands of temporary foreign workers, with contract work already underway and calls it highly disappointing as the issue was never raised by federal or provincial officials.

"There was always potentially an expectation to have a couple but not to this element and especially given the time-frame that we've had to plan for this, there's no reason why we wouldn't have the training taking place like we've done in many times in situations where we use actually transitional employment if there was a skill-set shortage, which I don't think there is."

Masse says this needs to be minimized and tax-payers should not be funding other jobs from people coming into the country when it's not necessary.

"And if we have to have a skill-set I guess met, then there's plenty of opportunities and facilities in the Windsor Essex County area to actually train those workers. Especially given the fact that this is massive amount of public subsidy to the facility."

The $15-billion in subsidies will see the federal government pay for two-thirds of the costs of the deal, while the Ontario government will pay the remaining $5-billion. 

NextStar has already hired 130 workers. A total of 2,500 workers are expected to be required when the plant begins battery production in early 2025.

Masse says he believes these jobs should be good paying union jobs and union members have reached out.

"But I think whether you're a union or not you've got to be scratching your head if you're in Windsor and Essex County wondering why you have friends that are unemployed and massive amounts of public subsidy are going into this facility and you have a federal government and a provincial government that have basically laid the path to actually having the situation take place. And it's going to effect the cost of living for everybody else."

Masse says negotiations for the requested emergency meeting will take place this week. 

In a statement to CTV News, Danies Lee, CEO, NextStar Energy said, “NextStar Energy is fully committed to hiring Canadians to fill more than 2,500 full-time positions at the Windsor battery facility and are engaging up to an additional 2,300 tradespeople locally and throughout the province to help with the ongoing construction and process equipment installation. The equipment installation phase of the project requires additional temporary specialized global supplier staff who have proprietary knowledge and specialized expertise that is critical to the successful construction and launch of Canada's first large scale battery manufacturing facility."

Speaking on AM800's The Morning Drive, Flavio Volpe, Auto Parts Manufacturer's Association president says the federal government runs the Labour Market Impact Assessment program.

"The company has to be able to prove that these workers for these jobs with these specific skills don't exist, and we know that's not true. Especially in a town with a guy like Dave Cassidy down there doing a little bit of stewardship. There's absolutely no way that we can't find the right people and do it."

Volpe says while he's not privy to how the company operates, in the past he's seen work permits sought out when it comes to specific technology that required setup.

"You may go out and get a work permit to say look 'this technology exists, we use it in other places, it's very sensitive, we've got to set it up immediately. To find people, to train them, to put the stuff up in 12 months, it's probably better if we bring somebody else in'."

Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Monday that he is pushing for a full inquiry into the issue, and wants a commitment that no public funding will go to foreign workers.

-With files from CTV Windsor, AM800's The Morning Drive and The Canadian Press