The CEO of NextStar Energy insists the company is committed to hiring Canadians to fill positions at Windsor's new EV battery plant after Windsor Police let slip a large contingent of international workers will soon arrive in Windsor.
"[NextStar is] engaging up to an additional 2,300 tradespeople locally and throughout the province to help with the ongoing construction and process equipment installation," said Danies Lee in a statement. "The equipment installation phase of the project requires additional temporary specialized global supplier staff who have proprietary knowledge and specialized expertise that is critical to the successful construction and launch of Canada's first large-scale battery manufacturing facility."
Concerns arose last Thursday when the Windsor Police Service posted on X, formerly Twitter, about a meeting between Chief Jason Bellaire and the South Korean Ambassador to Canada, Woongsoon Lim.
"With the new LGEnergy Solutions battery plant being built, we expect approximately 1,600 South Koreans travelling to work and live in our community in 2024," said a tweet from Windsor Police.
Head of Stellantis Communications in Canada, Lou Ann Gosselin, could not confirm if that many South Korean workers were coming.
Construction on the NextStar battery plant resumed over the summer after Stellantis, LGES, the federal, and the provincial government signed off on a $15-billlion incentive package. Production should start in 2025.
Workers represented by Unifor ratified an agreement with Stellantis earlier this month that stated the union would represent future workers at the battery plant.
Unifor National President Lana Payne said Monday afternoon that the union is definitely concerned about the hiring of foreign workers.
"Reports of NextStar’s hiring of temporary foreign workers at its battery facility in Windsor raised serious flags for our union," said Payne. "We believe the shift to electric vehicles must be led by good jobs, with union contracts, for workers in Canada...Recent clarifying statements by NextStar CEO Danies Lee have alleviated some of our union’s immediate concerns. To be clear, our union will closely monitor the hiring process to ensure Canadian workers are first to benefit from this historic investment in the auto sector and that NextStar fulfills its stated commitment to good jobs in Canada."
A story published by Global News said the union is investigating to ensure qualified Canadian workers receive first consideration for the jobs.
The issue has also reached Parliament Hill. During question period Monday afternoon, Windsor West MP Brian Masse of the NDP charged the federal Liberals for dragging their feet.
"Both the federal Liberals, and [Doug] Ford's Conservatives committed to jobs and training guarantees for local workers, and they had 18 months to get it right," said Masse.
In response, Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk of Windsor-Tecumseh, speaking as parliamentary secretary for the Ministry of Employment, said Canadians have always had first crack at the hiring.
"One application for one temporary foreign worker has been approved for this project," said Kusmierczyk. "My colleague knows that the TFW program is allowed only when Canadians or permanent residents are unable, or unavailable, to do a job."
Lee told Global News last August the workforce would be predominately from Canada.
In a statement to WindsorNewsToday.ca, Lee appeared to confirm those plans.
"NextStar Energy is fully committed to hiring Canadians to fill the more than 2,500 full-time positions at the Windsor battery plant," said Lee.
WindsorNewsToday.ca has reached out to the Ontario Ministry of Labour and Unifor Local 444 for comment.