WINGHAM, ON—Wescast Industries’ decision to close its foundry operations will devastate workers, families and the community of Wingham, where the facility has operated for more than a century, Unifor says.
“Wescast and its overseas owners are turning their backs on the foundry’s dedicated workforce and the community that has supported them for generations,” said Lana Payne, Unifor National President. “The Wingham foundry closure announcement must serve as a wake-up call to every level of government that Wingham auto parts workers urgently need support.”
The Wescast Industries foundry in Wingham has been in operation since 1902 and primarily manufactures exhaust manifolds for automakers such as Ford, General Motors, and Volvo. Wescast was acquired by Sichuan Bohong Co. Ltd. in 2013.
Last week, Wescast Industries communicated to Unifor its intention to close the Wingham foundry while continuing to source castings directly from sister operations in China. Approximately 250 Unifor Local 4207 members currently work at the foundry. The union maintains that overseas sourcing of the castings violates program commitment guarantees in the collective agreement and is the subject of a prior grievance filed by the union earlier this year.
“Wingham can’t afford to lose hundreds of good jobs and neither can the industry,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director. “Maintaining these jobs and the footprint of our auto parts supply chain is crucial to maintaining the skilled workforce and industrial capacity needed for the transition to electric vehicle manufacturing.”
Since Wescast was acquired by Bohong, the union has repeatedly expressed concerns to management regarding the company’s lack of investment in basic maintenance of the historic facility.
“With a complete failure by management to properly invest in this facility, it’s been up to workers to keep this plant running and do more with less,” said Joel Sutton, Unifor Local 4207 plant chair at Wescast. “Wescast has profited from this situation and wants to turn around and reward our hard work and dedication by violating our collective agreement, closing the plant, and moving our work overseas. It’s disgusting.”
While the situation at the Wingham foundry is unfolding, Unifor has warned Ottawa that proposed amendments to the Investment Canada Act aimed at enhancing its scrutiny of foreign investments and strengthening penalties do not go far enough, particularly in light of the ongoing dispute at foreign-owned Windsor Salt. The union also continues to push for comprehensive policy reforms to support the auto and auto parts sectors, particularly at-risk manufacturing plants with investment strategies and workers with transitional supports.
The collective agreement between the union and Wescast is set to expire this year and the parties are in the process of entering negotiations.