Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 23:37:40 -0500 (CDT)
From: Labor Calendar <>
Subject: Canada union pushes to organize Japanese car plants
Article: 67958
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Canada union pushes to organize Japanese car plants

By Ian Karleff, Reuters, 15 June 1999, 01:55 p.m Eastern

TORONTO, June 15 (Reuters)—The Canadian Auto Workers, Canada's largest private-sector union, said on Tuesday it is stepping up efforts to organise Japanese-owned auto assembly plants in Canada.

The CAW has contacted groups of workers and distributed leaflets at Honda Motor of Canada Manufacturing Inc.'s plant in Alliston, Ontario, and the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. plant in Cambridge, Ontario.

A much larger group has contacted us who are frustrated with the day-to-day unfairness in the workplace, CAW President Buzz Hargrove said on Tuesday.

The wages of the about 5,000 workers at the two Japanese plants are almost identical to those earned by CAW workers at Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG, and General Motors Corp. plants in Ontario. But Hargrove said the Honda and Toyota benefit plans are inferior as are health and safety conditions at the plants.

If Honda workers had the choice between a union or no union, we would win a vote today, but the choice is always framed by them and their friends in the media and government that if you vote for a union it could cost you your job, he said.

The CAW says the two companies, wholly owned units of Japan's Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (7267.T) and Toyota Motor Corp., (7203.T) have spent millions of dollars and have employed intimidation tactics to prevent the workers from organising.

There certainly has not been any indication from the associates that there is any desire or interest to become associated with the CAW, said Jim Miller, vice-president of corporate affairs for Honda Canada.

Although Honda's plants in Japan are unionized those in North America have yet to be organised. In April, the Teamsters launched an organising drive of 7,000-8,000 Honda production workers and skilled tradesmen at Honda's Ohio plants.

Union membership in the U.S and Canada has been waning in recent years with CAW membership at the major automotive firms and their component operations falling by about 10 percent since 1996 to 47,700.

In the United States, membership at the United Auto Workers has fallen from about 1.4 million workers in 1978 to 846,371 at the end of 1998.

Miller said there is no substance to the CAW's claims that Honda is using fear tactics to dissuade its workers from unionizing.

A second shift has recently been hired to assemble Honda's Odyssey minivan, which according to Honda is proof that workers like to work at its plants.

People are still aggressively interested in working there. If fear and intimidation were part of the equation, I don't think they'd be lined up to seek employment, Miller said.