Tuesday, December 17, 2013

CANADA:::Toyota union drive gets closer to certification vote

CAMBRIDGE — The union that represents auto and communications workers in Canada said its union drive at the Toyota plants in Cambridge and Woodstock is going well and it now has more than enough signatures to apply for a certification vote.

But Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, which was formed from the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers and Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions earlier this year, says the union will take its time to collect more signatures before applying for the vote.
"We are making sure that we are significantly over what is required because we want to make sure that it is a success," Dias said.
He said the union has collected more than 3,000 membership card signatures now, well surpassing the 40 per cent needed to apply for a certification vote by the 6,500 hourly employees of the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada plants in Cambridge and Woodstock.
Even though there have been union membership drives at the plants in the past, this one is the most successful yet, Dias added.
"We are more confident than we have ever been ... people in the plant are feeling very confident about it and so are we." The fact that the drive is being led by people from within the plant "makes a significant difference," he added.
Dias said although wages at Toyota are comparable with unionized plants, other issues are concerning the employees, including the large temporary contract workforce and the fact that the pension plan for the new hires has changed, he said.
He said people can be on contract for years at Toyota. That doesn't happen at the unionized plants, where there may be summer students and supplemental staff, but not long-term, temporary contract workers.
"It's hard to go to a bank and apply for a mortgage when you are a temporary worker," Dias said. "These are not temporary workers for three or four months. These are people who have been around for years, so they are in no way really temporary."
Workers have a hard time understanding why they can't be made permanent when Toyota clearly has the volume of work and produced well over 500,000 cars in Canada last year, Dias said. The company is not forecasting any downturn in the foreseeable future, he added.
The workers are also concerned that "the company is unilaterally changing their pension plan, where they couldn't do that if they were covered by a collective agreement," he said. Other concerns include workloads and ergonomic issues that lead to repetitive strain, Dias added.
Greig Mordue, general manager at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, said Toyota generally starts people on contract, but when people do become permanent full-time employees, Toyota commits to them.
"We have never laid off a permanent employee ... and honestly, very few in this industry can make a similar claim," Mordue said.
"We have had people on contract for a couple of years, yes, but that is clearly communicated to them at the outset. And last year, for example, we moved 900 people from contract to permanent ... This is a big, complex business, but our commitment to our full-time permanent employees is very secure," he added.
As for the pension plan, he said Toyota is maintaining its defined benefit pension plan for current full-time permanent employees, but for new permanent employees the company is moving to a "competitive" defined contribution plan whereby the workers and the company put in funds.
But Dias said the workers are getting older. "They know their wages and pension have tracked what we have been doing at the bargaining tables and they are tired of just following. They want to lead."
Dias added that it is a myth that Toyota won't deal with unions. In fact, Toyota deals with unions in Japan and about 85 per cent of its global workforce is unionized, he added.
"There is no reason that workers at Toyota here should be afraid of a union," he said. The unions in Japan have a respectful relationship with Toyota management "as I know we will," he added.
As for layoffs, Dias said that is determined by volume of car production in the industry and the car industry is very solid right now — at the unionized plants as well as Toyota.
The unionized plants like General Motors and Cami and Chrysler are running solid three- or at least two-shift operations and people who were laid off with recall rights are now back at work, Dias said. "We don't have members on layoff across the system right now."
In a global recession, all of the plants, unionized or not, are affected, he added. The difference is that in non-unionized plants, workers "are not at the table and don't have any say about what happens."
Dias would not give any timeline for when the union might file for a certification vote.
"We will file when we are comfortable and it will not be with just the bare minimum. We will make sure than when we file, it will be successful," he said.
Mordue at Toyota cited the company's 25-year track record of commitment to its workforce in Canada.
"We have been making cars since Nov. 30, 1988, with no layoffs, no strikes, no lockouts, no union fees and a competitive compensation system and a history of mutual respect and trust. So we believe our system works," Mordue said.
"At the end of the day, our team members will decide if they think a third party can make a contribution that will improve their working lives. We don't believe that is necessary, but that is a decision for our team members to make," he added.

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