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No new work, move to electric vehicles spells end for Dresden plant

The plant once had a lot of work with the Dodge Viper and Challenger and the Chrysler 300 and Charger.

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The Martinrea Fabco Metallic automotive parts plant has closed in Dresden after being impacted by changes in the automotive landscape including the move to electric vehicles.

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Word had been spreading around the community about the plant’s closure, with The Chatham Daily News only recently receiving confirmation from the company.

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“In the course of our company’s history, Martinrea’s Dresden location has played an important role in providing our customers with high-quality products and services,” stated Deanna Lorincz, Martinrea’s global director of communications and marketing, in an email.

“The plant’s closure was prompted by the completion of production on the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chrysler 300C, as well as the Dodge Charger and Challenger, which were key programs at the facility,” she said.

Jeep is moving to an electric vehicle line up, which includes discontinuing the Chrysler 300.

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“It was a big blow to us to hear that Dresden was closing,” said Unifor Local 127 president Jeff McFadden.

“Contracts ran out, which means there was no new work to be put in,” he said.

The plant once had a lot of work with the Dodge Viper and Challenger and the Chrysler 300 and Charger, McFadden said.

But, he noted with the Big 3 Automakers retooling for the electrical vehicle market, “it hit Dresden, unfortunately, first.”

Lorincz said to ensure customers continue to receive the exceptional service they have come to expect from Martinrea, the company has moved the remaining programs to its Martinrea plant in Ridgetown.

“This location will continue to serve our current customer base and focus on executing a press upgrade strategy to support and enhance our lightweighting initiatives, enabling us to grow our business and broaden our product range for our global customers,” Lorincz said.

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However, it doesn’t appear the move will save jobs for some Dresden workers or create new employment.

McFadden said, “At this time, Ridgetown is not hiring.”

“Martinrea would like to express its gratitude to the employees for their dedication and hard work throughout the years,” Lorincz said. “We understand that this decision has had an impact on their lives, and we deeply appreciate their contributions to our company.”

She said Martinrea recognizes the importance of its employees and their families and is “committed to providing support during this transition. We will work closely with affected employees to offer extended benefits, and financial education resources.”

Two employees spoke about the situation on their last day at work on Dec. 23, 2023.

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“We have not had any new work in quite a while,” said Brian Gittens, who worked at the plant for 23 years.

He added it was about 12 years ago that new work was brought into the plant.

Gittens said the current work just kept being extended, but has now come to an end.

“We have no work coming in . . . so basically we’re done,” he said.

Another Martinrea employee, who has worked at the plant for 32 years but didn’t want his name used, said:  “It just happened really fast, a lot faster than people thought.”

Gittens said the company hadn’t said much about the situation.

“This whole place is closing . . . and there’s nobody here fighting for our jobs or fighting to see if there are other opportunities,” he said.

McFadden said, “The members at Dresden, I can say this with great conviction, they were dedicated to their job.”

Gittens added it is a “bit sad” the plant is closing.

“It’s been 23 years of steady work and decent pay,” he said.

Noting he has to look for a new job at age 58, Gittens said, “I was kind of hoping I could get another few years in here and finish it off.”

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