Judges quash Nemak plant closure decision

October 7, 2020

TORONTO—A panel of judges of the Ontario Divisional Court has set aside a November 2019 arbitrator’s decision that allowed the closure of Nemak’s Windsor plant. The arbitrator cleared the way for the transfer of specialized General Motors work to Mexico causing the loss of approximately 200 jobs.

“Today is a great day for our members at Nemak who spent months waiting patiently for the court to rule on the future of their jobs at the Windsor Aluminum Plant,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “This is precisely the outcome our union and our members were fighting for and the ruling could not be any more clear—when you have a collective agreement with workers you have to live up to its terms.”

In late November 2019, arbitrator Norm Jesin ruled against Unifor’s grievance and awarded that Nemak’s plant closure could proceed despite strong job security language in the collective agreement. Nemak and Unifor agreed in 2015 that new work for General Motors would be placed in the Windsor plant and that Windsor would be the “sole source” for that work.

The union immediately launched a judicial review of the arbitrator’s decision which was heard before the Divisional Court in Toronto in February 2020.

In a decision issued on October 6, 2020, the Divisional Court quashed the arbitrator’s decision. In strongly worded reasons, Justice D.L. Corbett accepted Unifor’s argument that it had a contractual commitment that the work must be done in Windsor if it is to be done by Nemak anywhere. The Court found that the arbitrator misused evidence about the 2015 negotiation to get a different and unreasonable result.

“This decision affirms that Nemak is not above the terms of the collective agreement,” said John D’Agnolo, Unifor Local 200 President. “Our members showed incredible resilience, courage, and tenacity throughout this dispute and we are now one step closer to a resolution.”

Yesterday’s ruling sends the union’s grievance back to the arbitrator for a new decision in accordance with the court’s reasons. The full decision can be viewed here.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.