Police are calling an explosion Thursday evening at the Chrysler minivan plant in Windsor, Ontario, an “intentional act” and are asking members of the public for any information they may have.
No injuries were reported after the explosion at 5:45 p.m. in a vacant second-floor storage area on the west side of the plant, and there was no active fire as a result, according to the Windsor Police Service. The Explosive Disposal Unit located a “suspicious package” that detonated, and it will undergo further testing and examination as a part of the investigation.
Authorities were on the scene, and the plant was evacuated before 6 p.m. “out of an abundance of caution,” said LouAnn Gosselin, spokeswoman for Chrysler brand parent Stellantis NV. The plant was down for the remainder of the afternoon shift and resumed Friday morning as scheduled.
“The space has since been cleared and employees are expected to report to work at their regularly scheduled time,” she said in a statement. “Our employee health and safety, as well as the safety of the community are our top priority.”
Windsor police originally identified the device as an improvised explosive device, but retracted the statement because not all of the components had been tested.
The explosion comes amid some tensions between the automaker and its employees in Windsor. Canadian autoworkers union Unifor is objecting to Stellantis’ plans to enforce a requirement that all workers at its Canadian facilities get the COVID-19 vaccine, or they could face consequences, including termination of employment.
Windsor employs 4,213 hourly and 185 salaried workers on two shifts, but Stellantis last month informed employees it would cut the second shift and about 1,800 jobs in April as a result of the ongoing global microchip shortage after a third shift and 1,500 jobs were dropped last year. The automaker, however, says it will uphold its commitments in its 2019 contract with Unifor, which includes a $1.13 billion investment into Windsor by 2024 for a new platform supporting plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. Unifor says that will return the plant to three shifts.
“It is essential to make sure when our members go to work, they feel safe and secure,” Dave Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444 representing workers at Windsor, said in a Facebook post Friday afternoon. “Over the last couple of weeks, there have been some incidents going on in the plant based on anxieties. I know we have had some hard news as of late, but any lashing out in the facilities cannot and will not be accepted and needs to stop.
“All our livelihoods depend on the future of the plant. Trust and know that we are working through the unprecedented challenges that we are up against right now. Our priorities will always be the safety of our members and their long-term future employment. Any antics will negatively affect our reputation and our future, that is a fact.
“Let’s continue to work together to make sure we do what we do *BEST, providing a great product, and making sure we all go home safe and healthy.”
In addition to the explosive disposal unit, Windsor police said its K-9 Unit, Forensic Identification Unit and Arson Unit were a part of the investigation.
“Investigators do believe this was an intentional act and are seeking any information that may help identify a suspect or suspects,” Constable Talya Natyshak wrote in a news update.
Windsor police’s Arson Unit asks anyone with information call to 519-255-6700 ext. 4330 or after hours at ext. 4000. Anonymous tips can be sent to Crime Stoppers at 519-258-8477 or submitted online at catchcrooks.com.