Ford adding 1,000 jobs to Oakville plant
Provincial investment, union concessions and weakening Loonie credited for automaker’s expansion plans.
The automaker says it also expects to increase spending on Canadian-made auto parts by $200 million a year, to nearly $4 billion annually — a shot in the arm for Ontario’s manufacturing sector and Canadian exporters.
Ford has been preparing for months to produce the redesigned Edge at Oakville west of Toronto, with vehicles now expected to be exported to more than 100 countries around the world — up from the previous estimate of 60 countries.
The factory also produces the Ford Flex, Lincoln MKX and Lincoln MKT.
“Not only is the investment helping us meet much-needed capacity for high demand products produced in Canada, it’s creating jobs,” Ford Canada president and CEO Dianne Craig said in a statement.
In 2013, Ford announced a $700-million investment in the Oakville assembly plant that included $70.9 million from the Ontario government and $71.6 million from the Ottawa.
However, when the upgrade was announced last year, it did not come with any guarantee of any more jobs at the plant.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called the job announcement a “direct result” of her government’s investment.
“It reinforces our strategy that is multifaceted, but part of it is that we work in partnership with businesses to help them to make the investments that are going to allow them to compete,” she said.
The 1,000 new jobs announced Wednesday and 300 added last year will bring total employment at the plant to more than 4,000 by the end of 2014. Ford also operates an engine plant in Windsor, Ont. and employs a total of about 6,000 in Canada.
Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, said the union hopes there may also be more jobs for its Windsor engine plant.
“There’s lots of discussions going on, so we’re still waiting for a final decision. But obviously, we’re optimistic,” Dias said in an interview.
He said that the union’s current contract — which increased the number of years it takes for new employees to reach the highest wage scale to 10 years from five — was helpful but only one part of Ford’s decision.
“I would suggest to you, more than the labour costs, is the fact that the Canadian dollar is sitting at around 90 cents and it has been projected to go lower,” Dias said.
He said economists were forecasting a year ago, when Ford announced its $700-million investment, that the Canadian dollar could go as low as 85 cents US and stay in that range.
“That would be much more of an incentive than anything that we can do in labour negotiations,” Dias said.
A Scotiabank report on the global auto industry, released last week, said that the Canadian auto parts sector has benefited from a depreciation of the Canadian dollar over the past 18 months as well as increased vehicle sales in the United States.
“The industry has also started to make inroads in becoming more geographically diversified, with shipments outside of the United States advancing by 19 per cent so far this year — the largest increase of the past decade,” wrote Scotiabank economist Carlos Gomes.
Gomes said vehicle assembly in Canada has been dampened by retooling at several assembly plants, but auto parts shipments have surged 14 per cent so far this year — nearly triple the increase in overall manufacturing activity.
© 2014 The Canadian Press