Toyota Canada Workers Seek First North American Union

Workers at Toyota Motor Corp.’s Canadian factories will vote next week on whether to become the company’s first North American employees to form 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 website. The plants produce Toyota’s Corolla sedan, the Corolla Matrix hatchback, the Lexus RX 350 luxury sports utility vehicle and the 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., by phone from Cambridge, Ontario. 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.

Unifor, which represents 300,000 workers including 39,000 in the auto industry, is following its U.S. counterpart, the United Auto Workers, in trying to unionize car companies based outside of North America. A UAW bid to represent workers at Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga, Tennessee 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 U.S. by 2015.

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