Union workers at Magna International Inc.'s Integram seating plant in Tecumseh, Ontario -- which supplies seating modules for Chrysler's minivan assembly plant in Windsor -- are prepared to strike if a new contract is not reached by Nov. 7, according to Canadian press reports today.
The Canadian Auto Workers union represents the 675 members at Integram who on Sunday authorized a strike with 97.3 percent approving. Last Monday, the union began negotiations on a new contract.
“It's a strong message from the workers to the employer that they are united in terms of getting collective agreement, and they are 97.3 percent supportive of their bargaining committee moving forward," Rick Laporte, president of CAW Local 444, told CBC News. It is the first time workers at the plant have endorsed a strike, he said.
Ken Lewenza, who was president of CAW Local 444 until being elected CAW president in 2008, told Automotive News today the union wouldn't strike immediately on Nov. 7.
"We are only in the preliminary phase of negotiating," he said. "The vote was simply to get approval for the strike within the 30-day period. We don't intend to jump into a strike. So long as we see progress on the negotiation, we will hold off on the strike."
Lewenza said the union held off on negotiating a new contract with the Magna unit during Chrysler's U.S. bankruptcy reorganization last year.
"(Chrysler) sales were starting to plummet, so we agreed to hold off on negotiating the contracts at that time," he said. "Now that the current contract will be up November 7, we are bargaining for an improved contract."
Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in an e-mail it would be premature for the automaker to comment on the negotiations.
“We will continue to monitor the situation,” she wrote.
A spokeswoman for Magna declined to comment.
Integram's workers have not seen a pay raise in four years. Currently, the average wage at the plant is about $24.32 an hour, the union's vice president, Dino Chiodo, told CBC.
Chrysler's Windsor assembly plant began building minivans in 1983 and currently produces the Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country. The plant also makes the Volkswagen Routan.
Through September, the Windsor plant produced 125,578 Dodge Caravan and 103,803 Chrysler Town & Country minivans. Chrysler sold 74,954 Caravans and 87,493 Town & Countrys in the United States in the nine-month period.