Windsor Assembly Plant auto workers relieved, excited about recent Stellantis investments

·3 min read
Gerry Andrade, left, Brett Hedges, middle, and Brenda Lucier, right, work at the Windsor Assembly Plant.  (Darrin Di Carlo/CBC - image credit)
Gerry Andrade, left, Brett Hedges, middle, and Brenda Lucier, right, work at the Windsor Assembly Plant. (Darrin Di Carlo/CBC - image credit)

Recent investments into Canada's auto sector by Stellantis have nationwide implications, but for front-line assembly workers who have been through the ups and downs of the industry — the news is much more personal.

"It puts a lot of people at ease," said Brett Hedges, 33, who has been working at the plant for the last decade.

"For the last six, seven years we didn't know what was going to happen at this plant, so for all of us here it's a good day and we're all breathing a little easier cause we know we make really good stuff here."

A handful of other workers who spoke with CBC News outside of the Windsor Assembly Plant Wednesday said the recent announcements have had a positive impact on those in the plant.

Earlier this week, Stellantis announced a $3.6-billion investment to upgrade its Windsor and Brampton assembly plants, along with new research and development centres. The retooling and modernization is expected to begin in 2023.

WATCH: Workers reflect on recent auto investments

This came on the heels of a historic announcement in March, where the automaker, along with LG Energy Solution, announced a $4.9-billion electric vehicle battery plant that would bring about 2,500 new jobs.

"It shows some stability and security to the area and to the feeder plants as well, more jobs there as well, so good all the way around," said Gerry Andrade, who has worked at the plant for 24 years.

The upgrades to the Windsor Assembly Plant also came with news that two shifts would remain in place until the end of the year and the third shift, which ended in July 2020, will likely make a return.

Stellantis did not say when the shift would return.

The termination of the shift affected 1,500 workers, with more than 700 given buyouts at the time.

Plant worker Brenda Lucier said she was directly impacted by the third shift cuts and just made the cutoff for the 2nd shift.

"It's really exciting that the third shift is going to come and it's just more opportunities, better jobs and more stability," she said.

WATCH: Welzel talks about the third shift

"I never thought that they would put out that much money, it's a lot, it means so much for Windsor."

Austin Welzel was also laid off from the third shift, but has since been hired by the autoworkers' union, Unifor Local 444.

"Nobody really knew what was going to happen, what they were going to do ... it was scary at first right because we rely on the factory," he said.

According to Welzel, who said he still keeps in touch with colleagues that were laid off, people are "super excited" to get back to working at the plant.

He said he trusts that the company will deliver on what it has promised to workers and believes that a new vehicle will soon make it's way to the plant.

Despite the good news, Welzel said he anticipates it will be a few years until people get called back based on the timeline of the retooling.

"Don't lose hope," he said to those laid off.

"When everything is set and done, it's going to be awesome."

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