South Korean workers will be needed to provide expertise with proprietary equipment at Canada’s first electric vehicle battery plant, says Windsor’s mayor.
“Not every job that’s in that plant could be done by a Windsorite,” said Drew Dilkens on Monday.
“There are just some things (where) it makes sense to bring the installers of the company who is making the equipment.”
According to Dilkens, “we all have to admit” that the NextStar Energy facility that’s currently under construction in Windsor involves highly technical work that will require those with specialized skills.
Dilkens offered his comments on the increasingly political issue as federal politicians continue to joust over it in Ottawa.
Construction of the NextStar Energy electric vehicle battery plant in Windsor, photographed in November 2023. (Chris Ensing/CBC News)
NextStar Energy — a partnership between Stellantis and the South Korean company LG Energy Solution — confirmed last week that as many as 900 South Koreans will come to Windsor during the installation phase of the battery plant’s development next year.
These “original equipment manufacturer” (OEM) technicians will have work assignments in Windsor ranging from three months to 18 months in length. They are not NextStar employees and will not have permanent positions at the plant.
Dilkens said he expects the facility in Windsor will have similar proprietary equipment to what he saw when he visited LG Energy Solution’s battery plant in Wrocław, Poland.
The Windsor facility will be twice as large — making it one of the biggest electric vehicle battery plants in the world, and the first of its kind in Canada.
NextStar Energy has committed to hiring 2,500 Canadians for full-time positions at the plant. As well, approximately 1,600 Canadian tradespeople will be involved in the construction.
Dilkens said he had hoped that the amount of foreign workers at the plant would be kept to “a very small number.”
“I’ve said it before: Every one of those jobs that can be done by a Canadian, I want it to be done by a Canadian — by a Windsorite,” the mayor said.
Heavy equipment in use during the construction of the NextStar Energy electric vehicle battery plant in Windsor, as photographed in November 2023. (Chris Ensing/CBC News)
Regarding the hundreds of South Koreans who will be temporarily living and working in Windsor, Dilkens said he expects they will not be here all at once. “This will ebb and flow over the course of the next couple of years. As different equipment is installed, you will have certain numbers of people moving back and forth.”
Meanwhile, Canada’s federal Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates is expected to continue to debate the issue on Thursday.
Conservative MPs on the committee are pushing for the Liberal government to reveal full details of its contract with NextStar Energy — as well as its contracts with international companies behind other major projects being built in Canada with the help of foreign workers.
Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk is seeking amendments to the motion that would not require the contract documents to go before the House of Commons.
After a two-hour session on Monday with no vote on the motion, the federal committee is set to convene again on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
Construction continues on the NextStar Energy electric vehicle battery plant, as photographed in November 2023. (Chris Ensing/CBC News)
Unifor National president Lana Payne — whose members are expected to be employed at the completed plant — criticized the federal Conservatives for turning the issue into “a media circus.”
In an opinion letter, Payne noted that the free trade agreement between Canada and South Korea that allows NextStar Energy to bring in hundreds of foreign workers was created by the Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2014.
“They are officially talking out of both sides of their mouths,” Payne wrote.
“It’s embarrassing, quite frankly, the tenor of political debate on this issue.”