Toyota factory workers in Canada to vote on joining Unifor union

A "yes" vote at Toyota's Canada plants would be a big win for Unifor, which already represents workers at the Canadian arms of GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Previous attempts to organize Toyota's Canadian plants have failed.
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Workers at Toyota Motor Corp.’s Canadian factories will vote next week on whether to join a union.

The results of the poll of about 6,500 workers are expected in April, the union known as Unifor said in a statement today.

Toyota has three plants in southwestern Ontario with 7,000 employees, according to the company’s Web site. The plants produce the Toyota Corolla sedan, Corolla Matrix hatchback, the Lexus RX 350 luxury SUV and the Toyota RAV4.

“We do have that application now, we’re going through a process of reviewing it,” said Greg Mordue a spokesman for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. The number of workers that would be included in the proposed bargaining unit would be “significantly” larger than the 6,590 employees Unifor included in its filing, Mordue said.

“We’ll go through a process in the coming days of providing the specifics of what we believe the bargaining unit should be,” he said.

A "yes" vote would be a big win for the Canadian union, which already represents workers at the Canadian arms of General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Previous attempts to organize Toyota's Canadian plants have failed.

Unifor expects that the approximately 6,500 workers at the plants to begin voting next Monday, saying it is "absolutely confident" it has enough support for certification by the labor board.

It declined to reveal the exact amount of support, however, citing strategic reasons.

Ontario provincial labor law requires 40 percent of workers to sign cards for union certification.

If the organization drive is successful, Unifor said it would move to begin collective bargaining immediately.

Unifor, which represents 300,000 workers including 39,000 in the auto industry, is following its U.S. counterpart, the UAW, in trying to unionize car companies based outside of North America. A UAW bid to represent workers at Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant in February was defeated.

About 90 percent of Toyota’s plants around the world are unionized, according to the Unifor statement. Workers in Canada have identified several concerns, including wages, pensions, contracts and health and safety issues, the union said.

Canadian factory employment has fallen by about 24 percent over the past 10 years as the Canadian dollar strengthened to parity with its U.S. peer, and is little changed after hitting a trough of 1.74 million in August 2009. IHS Automotive estimates that Mexico will top the country as the biggest exporter of cars to the United States by 2015.

Bloomberg, Reuters and David Phillips contributed to this report.

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