Ford Motor Company awards investment to Mexico over Windsor plants
By Justin Prince
The Ford Motor Company has awarded their investment for a new engine program and facility to Mexico instead of Windsor’s two plants.
“We have been informed that we will not be getting the product that we were hoping to land based on the discussions with Ford, ourselves and the government,” said Unifor Local 200 President Chris Taylor.
The union, which represents more than 305,000 private-sector workers, said in a media release they hoped the investment would come to Windsor. According to Unifor National President Jerry Dias, the investment would have created more than 1,000 jobs, which would have stabilized the company’s future in the region. The Ministry Economic Development, Employment, and Infrastructure confirmed the decision made after rumours of the deal circulated throughout the day. Mayor Eddie Francis said at a press conference on Oct. 24 that the decision was disappointing and should “motivate new product creation” within the region.
Michelle Lee-Gracey, a spokesperson for the Ford Motor Company, declined to comment on the situation, saying the company “considers these discussions to be confidential.”
“Disappointing news from Ford this morning that it will produce engines in Mexico instead of Windsor,” said Unifor in a tweet after the announcement. “Governments are learning that strong auto industries come with commitment from the government and understanding of the importance and wisdom of investment. Unifor is committed to working with the government and the industry to secure strategic investments needed to rebuild our manufacturing base.”
According to previous media reports, the investment would have been for the global assembly of smaller engines for a variety of vehicles, such as the Ford Fiesta. The investment was rumoured to be worth more than $1.5 billion. The company had recently announced it was adding more than 1,000 new jobs at its Oakville, Ont. facility. The jobs being created at the Oakville Assembly Plant were part of a $700 million investment made in 2013. The company had also recently added more than 4,000 jobs in its Michigan factories, as well as $25 million to install LED lighting in its facilities Sept. 29.
“During 2012 bargaining, we had a letter signed that had been agreed to both Ford and ourselves (the union) that said that if there was new product being source to North America, that we would get the first opportunity based an acceptable business case,” said Taylor. “In this business case, we had a bunch of stakeholders, including ourselves, but it was very clear that it was predicated also on government incentives.”
According to Taylor, the Ford Motor Company had approached the Federal and provincial governments for more of those incentives. The company had previously received about $320 million from the provincial government for the investment according to previous reports. According to the contract agreement from 2012, when the government wasn’t able to provide more funding for the program, it made the clause in the agreement null-in-void. Francis said the city itself had an $8.5 million incentive package set up for the deal which would have resulted from a 10-year tax freeze.
“We would like to thank Dias and Unifor for their proactive efforts to promote Ontario and encourage investment in our province. We would also like to thank Ford for its ongoing investments in Ontario,” said Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Employment, and Infrastructure Hon. Brad Duguid in an emailed statement. “Our government is committed to partnering with business in a fiscally responsible way, but we will not invest taxpayer dollars in any partnership that doesn’t provide a strong return for Ontarians. This includes creating good jobs, anchoring key facilities, building an industry supply chain, fostering research and development, and leveraging a larger investment from the private sector.”
Despite the decision, Taylor said the plants in Windsor are stable and there “is no immediate concern” with their operations. Duguid assured that the auto industry is still thriving, adding the province is “ready to work with the auto sector, Ford included, on exploring opportunities for partnerships.”
“We still have a number of people on layoff which we’ve been concerned with for quite some time. But investment is sometimes few and far in-between and especially when you’re talking about global companies now,” said Taylor. “Any opportunities a company comes to you and says, ‘Oh hey, by the way, we got some product here potentially looking and placing on your site,’ that means everything.
"We weren’t successful in getting this one (investment) based on some things out of our control, but we’re not going to give up and we’re going to hit the ground running again after we meet with our members on Sunday (Oct. 26.)”