Auburn Hills, Michigan – Chrysler has announced that it has eliminated the third shift at its minivan plant in Windsor, Ontario. Approximately 1,200 employees will be put on indefinite layoff as a result of the shift reduction.

The plant produces the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country, as well as the Volkswagen Routan. It began producing minivans in 1983 and currently employs about 4,450 hourly workers, and has operated on three shifts since 1993.

“Given today’s severe economic environment and continued lack of consumer credit, which has affected the minivan market as well, we cannot sustain a three-shift operation at Windsor as we continue to work towards the appropriate level of plant utilization,” said Frank Ewasyshyn, executive vice-president of manufacturing. “We will work closely with the Canadian Auto Workers union to manage the shift reduction in a socially responsible manner.”

The reduction will take effect no sooner than June 24, 2009. Chrysler said the action is a necessary step to streamline the company and meet commitments made in the Viability Plan it submitted to the U.S. federal government in February 2009. The company is also in discussion with the Canadian federal and Ontario provincial governments, regarding assistance for its Canadian operations. Since 2007, Chrysler has eliminated more than 1.2 million units of capacity, more than 30 per cent of total, and will eliminate an additional 100,000 units in 2009. By the end of this year, the company expects to eliminate seven models from its product lineup and reduce fixed costs by an additional US$700 million, its lowest level since 1994.

CAW president Ken Lewenza said the magnitude of the depressed auto industry is having grave implications across the economy. “The loss of the third shift at one of the company’s most successful operations underscores the urgency for the provincial and federal governments to respond to the auto crisis not only with temporary loans, but with a comprehensive auto sector-specific industrial strategy, that includes balanced trade, and incentives to get old vehicles off the road,” he said.

The CAW said that Windsor, which depends heavily on the auto industry, already has the highest unemployment rate of any city across the country.

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