BUSINESS

SHADOWS OVER THE FUTURE

JOHN DALY December 3 1990
BUSINESS

SHADOWS OVER THE FUTURE

JOHN DALY December 3 1990

SHADOWS OVER THE FUTURE

Ronald Trudell says that he and many of his fellow blue-collar workers are worried by the prospect of closer trade links between Canada and Mexico. The 34-year-old punch-press operator at Huron Steel Products Ltd. in Windsor, Ont., stamps out wheels, engine mounts and other automobile parts. But he says that he fears his employer will eventually move to Mexico to take advantage of lower labor costs, weak unions and less stringent health-and-safety standards. He added, “If you owned the company, what would you do?”

Trudell earns $16.35 an hour, as well as benefits. He and his wife, who works as a secretary for a charitable agency, currently earn enough money to move out of their two-bedroom apartment and make monthly mortgage payments on a house. He adds, however, that they are unwilling to do so because of the possibility that he could lose his job if the company shuts down or relocates. Added Trudell: “I’d hate to give up the house after a year because I couldn’t

afford to pay the mortgage.”

co. Trudell fears that exodus will continue even after car sales pick up. “I’m worried about people in Mexico taking our jobs,” he said.

Although Trudell earns several times more than a comparable Mexican worker, he says that it is difficult to save money. To economize, he, his wife and two sons often drive to Detroit to buy groceries instead of purchasing them in Canada. “A bag of groceries that costs $90 here is only $50 over there,” he says. “If you had two kids, wouldn’t you shop there?”

For now, TrudeU’s employers appear to be content to stay in Windsor. In January, 1989,

The auto-industry slump that has struck Windsor during the past year has further shaken his confidence. With car sales weak, North American automakers are cutting production and reducing their purchases from parts suppliers, including Huron. Moreover, several manufacturers—including wheelparts producer Kelsey-Hayes Canada Ltd. and steering-wheel-cover maker Sheller-Globe of Canada Ltd.—have shut down their Windsor-area factories and transferred some of their production to Mexi-

Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.-based Algoma Steel Corp. Ltd. purchased Huron and began to modernize much of its equipment. And last week, Huron’s management signed a tentative three-year contract with the Canadian Auto Workers that includes cost-of-living protection and several wage and benefit improvements. Still, Trudell remains cautious: “It’s great to have all that, but they could turn around and lay us off in a couple of months.”

JOHN DALY

in Windsor