Canadian Toyota Employees to Undertake Potentially Historic Vote

By Brittany Uslaner

Next week, the workers of Toyota Motor Corporation’s Canadian plants will vote whether on whether to unionize.  This vote is potentially significant because if a majority of workers vote to unionize then it will be the first time North American plants fully owned by Toyota unionize.[1]  Toyota’s more than 6,500 autoworkers are expected to vote next week.[2]  Toyota Canada operates three plants with two plants in Cambridge, Ontario, and one plant in Woodstock, Ontario.[3]  The Canadian auto industry makes C$69 billion or $62.51 billion a year and Toyota’s Canadian plants are capable of assembling over 500,000 vehicles a year.[4]  Despite the seemingly positive profits and vehicle output of the Canadian auto industry, Canadian factory employment has actually “fallen by about 24 percent over the past ten years”.[5]

The union seeking to represent Toyota Canada’s workers is Unifor.[6]  Unifor already represents 300,000 workers and 39,000 of those workers are employed in the auto industry.[7]  Autoworkers represented by Unifor include the Canadian arms of General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler.[8]  For over a year, unions have been carrying out an organizing drive of Toyota Canada’s workers.[9]  The union drive gained momentum last September when the Canadian Auto Workers union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged to form Unifor.[10]  Over 40% of Toyota Canada workers have signed union cards.[11]  This Monday, Unifor filed papers with the Ontario Labour Relations Board “to become the official bargaining agent for the Toyota’s Cambridge and Woodstock employees.[12]  Unifor asserts that the movement towards unionization was spurred by concern over poor health and safety standards as well as a Toyota Canada’s “decision to change shifts to 10 hours”.[13]  In addition, Unifor claims Toyota workers are unhappy with temporary contracts “which have reduced benefits and don’t allow participation in the company’s pension plan”.[14]  Only one fourth of Toyota Canada’s workers have a contract.[15]  Another issue is that last year Toyota Canada announced that “it would put new permanent hires on a defined contribution plan, versus a more costly defined benefit plan”.[16]  Whether these issues will be resolved hinges on the vote next week.

 

[1] Ari Alstedter, Toyota Canada Workers Seek First North American Union, Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-31/toyota-canada-workers-seek-first-north-american-union.html ; Susan Taylor & Solarina Ho, Canada’s Toyota workers poised to vote on joining union, Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/31/toyota-motor-unions-canada-idUSL1N0MS0JE20140331

[2] Dana Flavelle, Union seeks right to represent Toyota plants in Canada, Toronto Star, http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/03/31/union_seeks_right_to_represent_toyota_plants_in_canada.html

[3] Susan Taylor & Solarina Ho, Canada’s Toyota workers poised to vote on joining union, Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/31/toyota-motor-unions-canada-idUSL1N0MS0JE20140331

[4] Id.

[5] Ari Alstedter, Toyota Canada Workers Seek First North American Union, Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-31/toyota-canada-workers-seek-first-north-american-union.html

 

[6] Brent Snavely, Toyota workers in Canada to vote on union representation next week, Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com/article/20140331/BUSINESS0104/303310077/Unifor-labor-unions-Toyota-Canada

[7] Ari Alstedter, Toyota Canada Workers Seek First North American Union, Bloomberg, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-31/toyota-canada-workers-seek-first-north-american-union.html

[8] Susan Taylor & Solarina Ho, Canada’s Toyota workers poised to vote on joining union, Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/31/toyota-motor-unions-canada-idUSL1N0MS0JE20140331

[9] Brent Snavely, Toyota workers in Canada to vote on union representation next week, Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com/article/20140331/BUSINESS0104/303310077/Unifor-labor-unions-Toyota-Canada

[10] Avery Moore, Unifor Announces Unionization Effort For Toyota Workers, Blackburn News, http://blackburnnews.com/london/2014/03/31/unifor-announces-unionization-effort-for-toyota-workers/

[11]Dana Flavelle, Union seeks right to represent Toyota plants in Canada, Toronto Star, http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/03/31/union_seeks_right_to_represent_toyota_plants_in_canada.html

[12] Avery Moore, Unifor Announces Unionization Effort For Toyota Workers, Blackburn News, http://blackburnnews.com/london/2014/03/31/unifor-announces-unionization-effort-for-toyota-workers/

[13] Id.

[14] Susan Taylor & Solarina Ho, Canada’s Toyota workers poised to vote on joining union, Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/31/toyota-motor-unions-canada-idUSL1N0MS0JE20140331

[15] Id.

[16] Id. 

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