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FCA deal met with cautious optimism, apprehension and excitement from auto workers – CBC.ca

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Auto workers at the Windsor Assembly Plant are feeling cautiously optimistic, apprehensive and excited about the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) deal announced Thursday. 

The three-year deal won’t come into effect for another four years but in the tentative agreement, FCA has committed to a new platform in Windsor for 2023 that will allow plug in hybrid vehicles and/or battery electric vehicles to be produced and roll off the line by 2025.

The new work will bring back the third shift that was lost earlier this year and revive some 2,000 jobs. 

Veteran Windsor Assembly Plant worker Kevin Nix says for now the deal with FCA “sounds like a win,” though he’s still apprehensive. 

“If there’s binding language that says … this is a promise that they intend on keeping, I guess I’m a little less worried. If it’s just ‘yeah maybe,’ then of course we’re going to be a little bit more concerned,” Nix said. 

With more than 25 years under his belt, Nix said this is really about ensuring younger generations have the work opportunities he’s had through his career. 

“I think the electric vehicles are going to be the way of the future,” he said. “This place is good for this city, it’s good for the whole region … the better we do, the better everyone does.” 

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Windsor Assembly Plant lost its third shift, eliminating 1,500 jobs, earlier this year. (Bob Becken/CBC)

Nix’s colleague Paul Lachance had a similar reaction to the news and told CBC News that he’s “cautiously optimistic,” about the tentative agreement.

“We went through it before, that they promised that yeah we’re going to be doing work and they pulled back,” Lachance said. “Will they say ‘Oh we’re just going to delay it for half a year or 6 months?’ and that’s what I’m worried about.” 

In general, Lachance said the deal exceeded his expectations and will be great for the region, as long as FCA follows through with it. 

The workers say they still don’t have the full picture, with more details about signing bonuses and wage increases expected to be discussed at a local union meeting on Sunday. 

Windsor Assembly Plant worker Paul Lachance says he’s ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the deal. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Local suppliers benefit from deal

About 95 per cent of hybrid or battery electric vehicles that will be built at the Windsor Assembly Plant would have the same components as others that have been built by the plant, according to the Automotive Parts Manufacturer’s Association president Flavio Volpe. 

But 5 per cent will be different, Volpe said, saying that current parts suppliers of the Windsor plant can sustain the new investment.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias attends a press conference announcing a tentative agreement for 9,000 members working at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, averting a midnight strike at its Canadian plants, in Toronto on Thursday, October 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin (The Canadian Press)

‘Pain before this gain’

Greg Layson, the digital and mobile editor for Auto News, said this tentative agreement signals that FCA is “committed” to the Windsor plant and community, but says based on conversations he’s had with Unifor national president Jerry Dias it sounds like things “might get worse before they get better.”

“He still foresees a few layoffs coming in Windsor due to the dwindling mini van segment, so there might be some pain before this gain,” Layson told Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre on Thursday. 

He added there is also a scheduled 38-week shutdown of the plant in 2023 to allow for the new production line to be built. 

Overall, Layson said, Thursday’s news sets the stage for Unifor’s talks with General Motors, which begin next week. 

The tentative electric vehicle agreement follows an earlier deal made with Ford last month.

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Owner of all-electric Nissan Leaf frustrated by difficulty of getting new battery – CBC.ca

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You might think that Nissan, the first car-maker to achieve widespread success with a zero-emissions electric vehicle, cares deeply about the environment. But Clayton Brander isn’t so sure. 

Three years ago, the Powell River, B.C., resident chose to buy a used 2013 Nissan Leaf, motivated by a keen interest in sustainability. 

“I love the car,” he said. “Honestly, in three years and 40,000 kilometres, I’ve replaced a set of tires and windshield wiper fluid. Nothing breaks down. It’s a fantastic little vehicle. I think electric vehicles are the way to go.”

But nowadays, instead of being able to drive the 120 km that 2013 Leafs could initially go on a full charge, Brander can’t get much more than 80 km. He has even become hesitant about turning on the heat or window defroster, since using those features require battery power and will reduce his driving range even further.  

Brander always knew that batteries lose capacity over time, and he figured it wouldn’t be a problem getting a new one. 

“The dealership where I bought the car said that in a few years, you can replace the battery for about $5,000,” said Brander.

But now, he can’t find one. He’s tried two nearby Nissan dealerships, three local repair shops and contacted Nissan Canada.

“Nissan hasn’t been helpful. I’ve sent probably six emails to them,” said Brander. “They keep telling me to go to the dealership. I called my local dealership and they sent emails to Nissan Canada. Six weeks later, neither of us has gotten a response.”

Both dealerships told him that a new battery — if he can find one — could cost him at least $15,000, which would be more than he paid for the vehicle in the first place.

WATCH | Brander’s struggle to replace his car’s battery:  

Clayton Brander of Powell River, B.C., assumed that buying a reliable electric vehicle was an environmentally sustainable decision. Three years later, he’s faced with the choice of buying an expensive replacement battery, if he can find one, or a new car. 2:10

His local dealership has encouraged him to solve the issue by simply purchasing a brand-new Nissan Leaf. The basic 2020 model costs $42,000 and can travel about 240 km on a full charge. That suggestion doesn’t seem very sustainable to Brander. 

“It seems like these things are going to end up in the landfill,” he said. “It makes more sense for them financially, I imagine, to sell new cars than to service the old cars.”

U.S. class-action lawsuit 

The Nissan Leaf has long been the world’s best-selling electric vehicle, surpassed for the first time in 2020 by Tesla’s Model S, according to Nissan and Tesla’s own figures.

Olivier Trescases, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Electric Vehicle Research Centre, said Nissan deserves credit for being a pioneer.

“They were one of the first to release a compelling electric vehicle with a reasonable range and most importantly, a low price point,” he said.

But he added that one of the design “compromises” Nissan initially made in order to keep production costs down was to not install an advanced cooling system for its batteries. “They were using a chemistry that was particularly temperature-sensitive, and they did not use expensive liquid cooling.”

Olivier Trescases works at the University of Toronto’s Electric Vehicle Research Centre, where students are working on a battery prototype that will get longer life and a greater driving range. (Dianne Buckner/CBC)

That means the battery’s capacity is reduced more quickly. In 2012, Leaf owners in California and Arizona launched a class-action lawsuit claiming the car’s driving range was lower than advertised.

The company settled the suit and extended the battery capacity warranty to five years on models made from 2013 onward. Later, Nissan extended the warranty to eight years on models made after 2016. 

As well, a battery replacement program for first-generation Leafs was launched in the U.S. A new one cost $5,499 US, plus labour, but the program was discontinued in early 2018.

Where’s the loyalty? 

After an inquiry about Clayton Brander’s situation from CBC’s Go Public team, Nissan declined an interview but released a statement via email. It said Nissan Canada will conduct an inspection of Brander’s vehicle and is “hopeful to find a resolution.” 

Contacted by phone, the head of corporate communications for Nissan Canada wouldn’t clarify if that means that they would find him a new battery, or at what price. 

The statement also pointed out the environmental impact of the Leaf, saying owners around the world have driven 4.8 billion kilometres and helped to prevent “more than 2.4 billion kilograms of CO2 emissions.”

Trescases believes Nissan should show more loyalty to its first customers. “Some of these early adopters helped them to get the car out on the market, get some acceptance and go from there.”

Nissan Canada says more than 3,300 Canadians have purchased Leafs built prior to 2015.

Trescases said the challenge of replacing batteries in older electric cars shouldn’t discourage buyers of newer models, explaining the latest EV batteries are incredibly efficient.

An electric vehicle charging station is pictured in Burnaby, B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“Today, companies are talking about million-mile batteries,” he said. “That’s a big buzzword, but let’s say they even get close to that — that means that the battery will actually outlive the car by a long stretch.”

Last year, Nissan began powering streetlights in Japan and a stadium in the Netherlands with batteries from cars no longer in use.

Keeping car on the road

At just seven years old, Brander’s Leaf is newer than most cars on the road in Canada, where the average vehicle is 10 years old. (In B.C., the average is 11.)

He remains determined to hang on to the vehicle, ideally with a new battery. He’s happy that Nissan Canada finally got in touch with him after the inquiry from CBC News, but he’s puzzled why the company says the vehicle needs to be tested. He said he already paid $130 for a battery test at a local dealership.

“The fact that I don’t get enough driving range out of this one is all that’s needed to determine that I need a new battery,” he said.

A newer-model Nissan Leaf is seen at an electric vehicle charging station in Burnaby, B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

He’d like to see Nissan show some loyalty to its most faithful fans, by helping keep the cars on the road for as long as possible.

“They got all the kudos for introducing the electric vehicles to the masses, so that looks really good,” he said. 

“But they’re losing them now by not supporting these older models and just pushing new vehicle sales, instead of saying, ‘Look, we can still keep these out of the landfill.'”

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WestJet pilots protest ‘outsourced’ flights to Swoop in Calgary – Global News

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About 50 WestJet pilots protested outside the Calgary International Airport on Sunday to draw attention to what they call the “outsourcing” of WestJet flights to low-cost carrier Swoop.

Though both are owned by the same company — the WestJet Group — protesters said Swoop is flying WestJet’s routes, which means fewer hours for WestJet pilots.

“The biggest issue for us is routes that have been flown by WestJet Airlines over the last two decades are now being flown by Swoop,” said Capt. Dave Colquhoun, WestJet Master Executive Council chair.

“When Swoop was initially envisioned, we were told that wouldn’t happen. Now that it started to happen, especially out of Toronto, we’re concerned about that and we want to bring that concern to the public view.”

Read more:
WestJet to start refunding flights cancelled amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Colquhoun said pilots want to see the WestJet Group consult all members on how to grow Swoop.

“They’ve done it unilaterally and they’ve done it in an environment where just recently we gave in major concessions to help them weather the storm,” he said.

“Our pilots have taken substantial cuts in wages and working conditions in order to help our airline through this pandemic. Right now, our guys are flying about a half to a third of what they were a year ago.”

Read more:
WestJet cuts ‘just the leading edge’ if feds don’t provide aid to airlines: experts

The WestJet Group responded to the union’s concerns, telling Global News that Swoop is important to the company’s future.

“[Swoop] is well-positioned to serve price-sensitive travellers while stimulating demand in Canada’s largest market,” it said.

“After a drop in guest traffic of up to 95 per cent and with recovery slower than anticipated, stimulating demand in our industry is critical for our group’s survival. Toronto is our country’s largest air travel market, and every guest who flies with WestJet, Encore or Swoop is a win for our group, assisting in our recovery and supporting our collective future.”

The WestJet Group said its focus is “ensuring we have a long-term sustainable future” while “providing good jobs for thousands.”

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There is no anticipated impact on WestJet operations.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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More than 100 People Gather for COVID-19 Protest in Windsor – AM800 (iHeartRadio)

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The Great Demonstration Against Harmful COVID-19 Measures drew more than 100 people to downtown Windsor Sunday.

Protestors held signs rebelling against mask restrictions, quarantine protocols and what they’re calling “coerced testing” at the foot of Ouellette Avenue beneath The Great Canadian Flag for a rally around 1 p.m. — followed by a march up Ouellette Avenue where they stopped traffic in front of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit on the corner of Erie Street.

Co-organizer Currie Soulliere, who launched a failed attempt to shop at Devonshire Mall without a mask earlier this summer, says protestors don’t want to see another lockdown.

“There’s always a threat that there may be another lockdown and we need a guarantee that there’s something protecting us from that happening again,” she says. 

Medical Director of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed previously said the protest is dangerous, potentially spreading the virus and information with no scientific backing.

That didn’t stop the crowd from chanting outside a likely unstaffed health unit on a Sunday afternoon.

“He didn’t want to speak to us, I’m pretty sure he said that, but we are going to make our presence known in front of the health unit,” Soulliere added.

Parts of Ottawa, Toronto, Peel and the York Region have seen modified Stage 2 restrictions imposed this month as hot spots in record case numbers in Ontario.

Windsor remains in Stage 3 of COVID-19 recovery and has few restrictions outside of phycical distancing rules and mask requirements.

Soulliere says protestors want a guarantee that won’t change.

“Some kind of guarantee that we’re not going to have any more lockdowns or shutdowns over what is amounting to a far less deadly virus than we were initially told, ” says Soulliere. “Honestly, a lot of us are questioning whether [Dr.] Wajid Ahmed should have his position at the health unit.”

There have been 42.5-million cases of COVID-19 documented globally since the pandemic began in April resulting in 1.15-million deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

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