Auto parts supplier strike could affect 30,000 workers

An unexpected strike by nearly 200 CAW workers at an auto parts supplier east of Windsor, Ont., could affect 30,000 others, according to union officials.

Rick Laporte, president of CAW Local 444, said the strike at Dakkota Integrated Systems in Lakeshore, Ont., has already stopped work at four other supply plants where the union represents workers.

The parts supplier produces instrument panels for minivans built at the Windsor Assembly Plant, and production of the vehicles halted Monday without just-in-time delivery of the components.

"Obviously, this will touch all our supply chain in all of the Windsor-Essex area. Even some plants in Detroit, they will be affected," Laporte said.

Almost 200 workers at Dakkota began strike action after voting to reject a three-year contract, putting the brakes on the Chrysler plant employing nearly 4,900 hourly workers.

"Effective immediately, production at Windsor Assembly Plant has been temporarily suspended," said Chrysler spokeswoman Lou Ann Gosselin early Monday morning.

"Due to a lack of supply components, the day shift is cancelled for all production employees with the exception of skilled trades, who must report on their regularly scheduled shift start times. We're going to continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on a shift by shift basis."

The workers at Dakkota Integrated Systems in Lakeshore, Ont., voted more than 60 per cent on Sunday against the proposed three-year deal, which included a wage increase of $1.50 an hour over the life of the agreement.

The contract rejected by the Dakkota plant workers had been recommended by the union.

"Absolutely I was surprised. That word might be mild. It’s a little bit of a shocker," Laporte said of the members' collective decision to strike. "To me it’s like committing suicide. Chrysler isn’t going to stay down a whole lot longer before they look elsewhere for a supplier."

Laporte and Local 444 vice president thought the contract did enough for their members.

“We thought it was an excellent contract," Chiodo said. "We endorsed it unanimously from the bargaining committee, and we presented it to our membership and they resoundingly said that they are not interested. They voted 38.9 per cent in favour of it, which basically puts us out on strike."

Wages were the issue, said Local 444 vice president Dave Larue.

“The 50 cents, 50 cents and 50 cents — their expectations were a lot higher," he said of the members.

Workers at Dakkota currently make $17.50/hr.

Laporte said he will address the members later Monday.

"We're meeting at the end of the day to help them understand the economic times we’re in," Laporte said.