Canadian Manufacturing

Union temporarily pulls application to organize at Ont. Toyota plants

Unifor said decision was made to gather more support after automaker issued revised employee list

CAMBRIDGE, Ont.—Canada’s largest private sector union said it is not abandoning its bid to represent workers at Toyota Motor Corp.’s plants in Ontario despite withdrawing an organization application submitted to the province.

Quite the contrary, Unifor national president Jerry Dias said this week, announcing plans to “escalate” the campaign to unionize the workforce at the automaker’s plants in Cambridge and Woodstock, Ont.

He said the union remains “committed” to the organization push.

The news comes after Toyota provided a list to the union and the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) of 7,500 employees it believes are eligible to be part of a potential bargaining unit across its operations.

Prior to the list being released, Unifor had said it believed there were roughly 6,600 union-eligible workers at the three facilities.

On its website, Toyota puts the total number of employees at the plants at 7,000.

“That is an interesting number because Toyota’s production decreased three per cent in 2013 and is forecast to have lower volumes in 2014,” Dias said in a statement.

“We would be surprised if under such circumstances Toyota had hired upwards of 1,000 people. If Toyota is hiring, that’s wonderful. But it would be unusual, so we are going to look at that list carefully.”

Under the circumstances, Dias said Unifor brass will now go back to the drawing board and examine the revised list carefully before re-submitting its application to the labour board.

“We had a tough choice to make,” Dias said about the decision to withdraw the initial application to the OLRB filed March 31.

“We can engage in a lengthy legal battle about the employee list, or we can build on the momentum we have and get more cards signed. We’ve chosen the latter.”

Instead of going to a vote next week as initially planned, Unifor plans to engage with employees on the new list “so there is no dispute over the numbers.”

According to Ken Cleveland, a 17-year veteran at the plant in Cambridge, Ont., more than 3,000 employees have already signed cards to join the union.

“This is a clear sign that people want a union and even this week, more cards were coming in,” Cleveland said in the Unifor statement. “The problems facing Toyota team members have not been addressed. With an extra push, I know we’ll be able to succeed.”

The union did not provide an updated timeline of when it plans to re-apply with the OLRB or hold its organization vote.

If successful, the plants would be Toyota’s first in Canada or the United States to unionize.

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