Aluminum automotive caster Nemak plans to close one of its manufacturing plants in Ontario by the first quarter of 2009, according to the Canadian Autoworkers Union, which represents nearly 500 workers at the plant in Essex, ON, operation. According to press reports, the news of the closing was delivered to workers by the company management at an assembly on Wednesday, February 6. The company has made no public statement on the matter. Nemak, a joint venture of Ford Motor Co. and Mexico's Grupo Alfa, produces aluminum engine blocks and cylinder heads at two plants in Canada, one at Windsor, ON, and the other at Essex. It lists the plants’ combined capacity at 3.9 million units. Nemak is based in Monterrey, Mexico, and has 28 manufacturing plants in 13 countries in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. "This is a crushing blow to Ford/Nemak workers and the Windsor area, which has one of the highest unemployment rates of any large city across the country," stated CAW president Buzz Hargrove. The union used the announcement as a call to the Canadian government to address the nation’s imbalance of trade with European and Asian nations. It said the trade deficit and “the soaring Canadian dollar” are eroding the domestic auto industry. "The Harper government must move quickly to develop a long-term automotive policy that will both stop the job loss and rebuild Canada's most important industry," said Hargrove. The CAW added that the federal government should provide support to Ford Motor Co., which the union believes could be encouraged to restart its Essex engine plant, with government cooperation.