Windsor, Ontario, Canada – November 25, 2023
In a move that has stirred controversy and drawn sharp criticism, NextStar’s decision to employ up to 900 foreign workers for the installation of equipment at the Windsor electric-vehicle (EV) battery plant has been deemed an “insult” to Canadian tradespeople by Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU).
The national organization, representing over 500,000 skilled trades workers in 14 unions, contends that these jobs should be reserved for trained Canadians, particularly those in southwestern Ontario.
Sean Strickland, Executive Director of CBTU, expressed his strong disapproval, stating, “It’s just absolutely unconscionable. We need to find a way to resolve the situation and maximize the number of Canadian jobs on this project.”
NextStar, in response to the backlash, confirmed its plan to hire approximately 1,600 technicians, including up to 900 “temporary specialized global supplier staff,” mainly from South Korea. The company justified this decision by citing the specific knowledge these workers possess about the equipment, having been part of the team that built and disassembled it for shipping.
The Windsor EV battery plant is a collaboration between Stellantis and South Korean company LG Energy Solution, set to open in 2025 with $15 billion in federal and provincial subsidies. The controversy has prompted urgent calls for a meeting between CBTU and the involved companies, with Strickland highlighting the need for a resolution as work progresses at the plant.
While the “Construction Employers Coordinating Council of Ontario and Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario” have joined the chorus of disapproval, voicing their opposition to NextStar’s plans, provincial minister Vic Fedeli assured that Ontario workers would receive training. He stated, “These workers will also assist with training 700 Ontario workers to equip them with net new skills.”
Federal Minister of Industry François-Philippe Champagne expressed alignment with the building trade unions and emphasized the importance of understanding the landscape fully. He stated, “What is the minimum required amount of people that we need to transfer the technology and make sure that Canadians and Canadian workers could operate, and build this plant so that we have benefits for generations to come.”
Amid differing opinions on the matter, industry experts, including Joe McCabe, president of Auto Forecast Solutions, suggested that employing foreign workers for initial setup is common in partnerships, especially in the electrification space with a foreign entity.
NextStar clarified that the temporary staff would work on-site for three to 18 months before returning home, emphasizing that these are not permanent full-time positions. The ongoing debate underscores the complexities of balancing international collaboration, skilled labor utilization, and the transition to future automotive technologies.