Dave Hall, Windsor StarPublished: Friday, April 18, 2008
Despite losing 9,000 jobs over the past five years and more than $600 million in payroll, the auto sector across the Windsor region still produced $17 billion in vehicles and parts and pumped $1.2 billion into the local economy last year, according to a study released this week by the CAW.
But those numbers belie an industry in crisis.
"The crisis in our industry is affecting every part of our community," said Ken Lewenza, president of CAW Local 444 which represents workers at Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant and in the parts sector.
"The health of this community is being directly affected by the closures and cuts within auto assembly, auto parts and the entire manufacturing sector."
It's still the most dominant industry in the region, employing more than 18,000 workers or one in every eight jobs, compared to 2002 when the industry employed 27,000 workers.
Closures, bankruptcies and layoffs have plagued the industry in recent years largely because "we are being hammered by the high Canadian dollar, the flood of imports and the impact of unfair trade agreements,'" said Mike Vince, president of CAW Local 200.
Conducted every bargaining year, the study also showed that Windsor autoworkers built an average of 717 vehicles and 2,151 transmissions each day last year while paying $846,000 a day in income and sales taxes.
CAW president Buzz Hargrove said it's important to remember the huge impact the industry has on communities across Ontario.
"Thousands of workers, their families and many, many communities depend on a healthy domestic auto industry," said Hargrove. "The paycheques of our members are spent in local communities and our members pay federal and provincial taxes that support critical public services."
In centres such as Windsor, Toronto, Waterloo Region, London, Oshawa and St. Catharines, the industry employs more than 107,000 workers who earned $6.6 billion in 2007 and produced $79 billion in goods