Union hopeful investment in Windsor Ford plant can bring Oakville workers home

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Union hopeful investment in Windsor Ford plant can bring Oakville workers home

The union representing hundreds of Ford employees who headed up the 401 to Oakville is hopeful they will be able to come home thanks to a $600-million investment in operations in Windsor.

Unifor Local 200 president Chris Taylor said the multi-million dollar boost from the automaker and federal and provincial governments should be enough to add "roughly 400 jobs" at the Windsor Engine Plant.

Taylor said his first priority is getting the 280 employees that are currently laid off back to work, but added it could mean a homecoming for those who had to leave the city to find a job.

"We're hoping we can get back all of our members that had to leave because this is their home," he explained.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Essex Engine Plant Thursday to announce his government's contribution of $102.4-million in a $1.2-billion partnership with Ford. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was also on hand and matched the federal government's investment.

Few details on how investment will be used

Details on how, exactly, the money will be spent remain scant, but Taylor said much of it will go towards setting Windsor up to be the lone supplier of a new, global engine.

"I can tell you that it's going in the E-series, Super Duty, Econoline, medium duties and a bunch of others, but I can't tell you anything more about it … I'm sworn to secrecy."

Windsor Ward 4 Coun. Chris Holt has worked at Ford for 20 years. Although he's currently on leave recovering from a broken leg he said he could hear the "screams of joy" after the announcement from his home four blocks away.

"Having a resurrected, healthy auto sector is incalculable," he said, adding it will mean more jobs and more money being spent in Windsor.

Critics call investment 'corporate welfare'

Although celebrated locally, the government's willingness to put up big bucks for big business drew criticism from some. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation described the contribution as "corporate welfare" and said it was "ludicrous to suggest Ford 'needed' a $200-million handout."

Taylor said he's tired of that refrain and invited the taxpayers federation to suggest a better idea if they have one.

"The reality is the Ford Motor Company would never have come to this side of the border and said 'Here's $1.2-billion that we want to put in Canada without the government being involved," he said.

Holt conceded that in a perfect world there wouldn't be a need for government to support businesses, but said without government support it would be impossible for Windsor to compete in the global market, where other governments are providing companies large sums to give them an advantage.

"Everybody should be celebrating this," he said. "This is keeping people working and giving people security."