600 electricians needed to retool Chrysler's Windsor plant

Friday, January 9, 2015

CBC News

Workers to make $58/hr, including benefits

Chrysler is searching for hundreds of electricians to help retool its Windsor Assembly Plant, where the company's next generation minivan will be produced.

Union members say Chrysler is searching for up to 600 electricians for three months of work, which includes demolition of old conveyors and paint systems and the re-installation of the systems, electrical panels, cables, wires and more.

Hiring is underway, some work has started and the project will wrap up in May.

Electricians will work 10-hour days, seven days a week. There will be two shifts working each day.

The unionized employees will make $58.85/hr, including benefit.

Karl Lovett, with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, says a majority of the 700 members from the Windsor local is already on other jobs. So, he is looking outside of the city for electricians for the Chrysler project.

"Sarnia, London, closer areas that have the specialized skills that we do to work in these type of automotive industries," Lovett said.

Lovett said the work will help bring home electricians who have been working in other parts of Canada.

He also said the project means more business for hotels and restaurants.

Biggest project in decades

Mike Hope from Rorison Industrial Electric said he hasn't seen a project of this magnitude at Chrysler in two decades.

"It’s been pretty quiet. There hasn’t been a whole lot of work, especially a job of this magnitude in the area for quite a long time," he said. "Our anticipation is there's spinoff jobs coming from this work, but the reality is we're not really sure.

"Hopefully it’s a turn in the economy and sign Chrysler is investing in the community."

Expansion of Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant began on Boxing Day in the southwestern Ontario city and it's also linked to the production of "a future vehicle," the company says on Facebook.

The company said the expansion was "designed to get the plant ready" for the "future vehicle."

"And sorry, we can’t yet tell you what’ll [sic] be," the post reads, in part.

The company is spending close to $2 billion to retool, according to Unifor National president Jerry Dias.

Early last year, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne intimated upper levels of government had to come to the table with significant funding or risk losing Chrysler production in Ontario.

Chrysler stopped talking investment with the federal and provincial governments when the issue became, as he called it, "a political football."

Chrysler later confirmed the 2015 model year would be the end of the line for the Grand Caravan, but there was some relief when it committed to producing the new Town and Country minivan in Windsor.

Chrysler said in a media release in March that it would "fund out of its own resources whatever capital requirements the Canadian operations require."

"With the automotive industry that always employed our members here slowly leaving the city and diminishing, the fear is always in the back of your mind that your organization will also diminish with it," Lovett said. "Because they put this influx of money back in the area, it brightens everybody's future that Chrysler's here to stay."

Plenty of work

After the Chrysler project wraps up, Lovett said there are other projects in Windsor with enough work to keep electricians busy for about a year.

Lovett said there are still 70 electricians working on the $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway. He said there are several more projects on tap, including:

  • A 100-megawatt solar farm
  • 66 wind turbines to be built in Lakeshore
  • New Windsor City Hall
  • Expansion of an ethanol plant in Chatham

"And we still have the customs plaza to do, along with the [new international] bridge that's slated to be done by 2020," he said.