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Workers at the blockade in front of the Nemak plant in Windsor, Ont., on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (Michelle Maluske / CTV Windsor)

 

Nemak officials say they are open to dialogue regarding the collective agreement, but the union disagrees.

The company said in a statement on Monday, it is prepared to extend the time limits already expired, until further notice.

“In the event the union elects to meet and a resolution is not obtained, a referral to arbitration would be the appropriate and lawful next step,” said the statement. “Nemak remains available and accessible to meet.”

Unifor Local 200 president John D’Agnolo says Nemak did not reach out about a discussion before issuing the statement.

“The only talks they’ve come to us about is ‘we’re closing the plant’ period,” says D’Agnolo. “They have not come to us about have a sit down, have a good discussion on anything. So I don’t know where that’s coming from. That letter is absurd.”

Workers at the barricade say they got an email directly from the company Monday, telling them to go back to work and saying they’re disappointed Unifor has taken this stand.

Nemak also said "it is the company’s firm position that it has followed the terms of the full plant closure notice language (the closure provisions) and the customer volume dependent product commitments in the current collective agreement."

Unifor started the protest on Sept. 2 in response to Nemak's decision to close the plant in June 2020, putting 270 employees out of work, as the company moves the work to Mexico.

A Windsor judge has since ordered Unifor workers to remove the barricades at the Nemak plant – calling it an unlawful strike --but the union and the workers are defying the order.

The union wants the company to honour the current collective agreement that doesn't expire until 2022.

Toni Koren, a Nemak employee for the last nine years, says the workers are upset because they made concessions to keep the plant open.

"You asked us to take a wage freeze so we can keep the product, keep this plant open," says Koren. "OK, we agreed to it, we did it, we're supporting it and now you just pull that right from underneath us."

The Mexican-owned aluminum casting plant builds engine blocks for General Motors.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was in Windsor on Monday and when asked about Nemak, Freeland said the company had turned its back on Canadian workers.

She also urged the company to negotiate fairly with the members of Unifor.

Windsor Police Sergeant Steve Betteridge says they remain in contact with both sides to ensure the peace.

"We realize that any strike involves someone's job, their occupation and that can become very emotional at times, but we need people, and this is exactly what we've had so far, people realizing the bigger picture, and through communication, it keeps everyone calm," says Betteridge.

The issue moves into the courtroom on Tuesday.

Nemak has listed Unifor national president Jerry Dias, Unifor Local 200 president John D'Agnolo and two other union leaders as respondents in its contempt of court case for ignoring the orders from the Labour Relations Board and the Superior Court.

Local 200 President John D’Agnolo is not mincing words about today’s @Nemak_Global news release, adding the only “dialogue” they’re willing to have is fulfilling the contract & keeping the plant open past 2022 pic.twitter.com/yBiUfcEICo

— Michelle Maluske (@MMaluskeCTV) September 9, 2019