Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2001 15:20:54 -0800
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Cindi Foreman <willows@CYBERBEACH.NET>
Organization: CUPW Local 612
Subject: CAW gains foothold at Magna:Union suspends right to strike

CAW gains foothold at Magna—Union suspends right to strike

By Tony Van Alphen, Toronto Star, 13 February 2001

The Canadian Auto Workers union has agreed to give up the right to strike for six years at a Magna International plant in efforts to establish a beachhead there.

Workers at Integram Windsor Seating have voted in favour of the unusual move before bargaining for a first contract, a senior union official confirmed yesterday.

Hemi Mitic, assistant to CAW president Buzz Hargrove, said the company and union will try to negotiate a three-year contract. If they reach an impasse, each side could invoke binding arbitration. After three years, the two sides would repeat the process.

Mitic said the union views the move as a way of expediting a first contract and building further support at the Windsor plant.

This can be seen as somewhat controversial since we've always regarded the use of the strike as the ultimate hammer, Mitic said in an interview. But this is a unique situation. Workers voted 317 to 285 in favour of the union in October, 1999, after a high-profile organizing drive. The victory followed three unsuccessful drives in the previous decade. Mitic said the support of 53 per cent of workers who voted is not strong enough to risk a strike and the union's survival during the next few years.

The test is still on us to gain the trust of almost half the work force, he said.

Mitic said the union sees Aurora-based Magna, the country's biggest independent auto parts supplier, as a formidable opponent in resisting unions.

Magna sought the six-year strike freeze at the Windsor plant during high-level talks between the company and union, Mitic said. DaimlerChrysler Canada Inc. relies on the Integram plant to provide seats on a continuous basis for its minivan operation in Windsor. While the union gives up the right to strike, the company won't be allowed to lock out workers under the arrangement.

Company officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Magna has no union presence at more than 60 plants in Canada. However, the United Auto Workers represents employees at some company operations in the United States.

After the 1999 vote, Magna contested the vote at the Ontario Labour Relations Board and hearings dragged on for months.

Seeing no imminent resolution by the board, the union and Magna agreed in January to set aside those differences and negotiate. In the past, Magna founder and chairman Frank Stronach has said he wanted to build partnerships and relationships with unions but remained cool about recognizing them as full bargaining agents.

Mitic said he has seen new signs that Magna wants to work with the union.

However, he noted that, if Magna tries to weaken or eliminate the CAW at

Integram, the union will apply other pressures through its position at DaimlerChrysler.

It could mean the refusal of DaimlerChrysler workers to handle seats from the Integram plant and affect minivan production, he said.