Workers at Toyota plants in Ontario could vote next week on whether to join Unifor, the successor to the Canadian Auto Workers union, which now represents employees at Chrysler, General Motors and Ford plants across the Canadian province.
The upcoming vote follows several failed attempts by the CAW to organize workers at the Toyota and Honda plants in Ontario. Unifor, however, believes workers are more receptive to the union’s appeal because of several recent changes in the way Toyota operates the plants, including a switch to a 10-hour day.
Workers are also concerned about Toyota’s growing use of contract and temporary employees, who have a separate compensation system, according to Unifor officials.
Several thousand Toyota workers have already signed cards, asking for representation by Unifor. The union application for the vote said more than 40 percent of the 6,500 workers employed by Toyota at its assembly sites in Woodstock and Cambridge, Ont.
Toyota is challenging the basis for the vote and claims Unifor has underestimated by number of employees it employs in Ontario and thus has not actually reached the 40% threshold required for a vote by Canadian labor law. Toyota plants in Canada and the U.S. have no unions, though Toyota plants in other parts of the world, notably in Japan, are unionized.
Unifor’s campaign is also supported by an umbrella organization of industrial unions from more than 140 countries around the world.
“I am encouraging you to vote Yes to Unifor representation at the Toyota plants in your country. Unifor representation will pave the way for the creation of unionized plants also in Canada like most of the Toyota plants worldwide,” said Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of the IndustriALL Global Union.
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“This will improve two-way communication and give you a voice over decisions on a wide range of matters concerning your plant, including investments and the development of new products that help create new jobs and offer better job security.
“Through Unifor representation, you will also join the global Toyota union family, which brings together Toyota workers and their unions from around the world, to discuss strategies and matters affecting the employees.
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“In the upcoming election you will have a unique opportunity to set a new positive standard in industrial relations that will greatly benefit workers and the company as well as the entire community.”
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The vote follows an unsuccessful bid by the United Auto Workers to organize employees at Volkswagen of America’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. The UAW has asked the National Labor Relations Board in the U.S to set aside the outcome on the grounds that anti-union political figures in Tennessee interfered in the vote in Chattanooga.
The UAW’s campaign in Chattanooga was supported by the IG Metal, the German metalworkers union, which has become deeply involved in the effort to set up a works council at the plant.