Trouble looms for Magna and CAW deal

Union local president opposes historic agreement

It might not be smooth sailing for a historic deal that would make it easier for the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) to unionize Magna International's 18,000 employees at 45 auto parts shops.

Just two weeks after the Aurora, Ont.-based auto parts giant and the CAW announced the deal, in which unionized workers would give up their right to strike, Chris Buckley, president of CAW Local 222 in Oshawa, Ont., has voiced his opposition to the agreement.

"I am writing to you, in as forceful terms as I am able, to let you know that I cannot in good conscience support the national union's agreement with Magna International," wrote Buckley in an open letter to CAW president Buzz Hargrove.

"Buzz, a 'no-strike' clause goes against the fundamental right of unionized workers."

Under the agreement, workers would not have the right to strike and management could not lock them out. Disputes would be settled through binding arbitration.

Buckley had initially supported the agreement, called the "Framework of Fairness," but changed his mind after hearing from workers on the shop floor and other leaders in the local.

In his letter, Buckley pointed out that the no-strike clause could hurt other unionized shops that go up against Magna for a supplier contract.

"Suppliers employing my members completely lose any playing field if the right to strike becomes a factor in the competition's favour," he wrote.

Local 222 is the largest single unit in the CAW, with 23,000 members, and as such its opposition could lead to more dissent when more than 800 union delegates vote on the agreement at a council meeting in December.

Hargrove said he had received unanimous support from the CAW's top leaders at the Big Three auto manufacturers (General Motors, Chrysler and Ford) and parts operations earlier this month and that he still expects the national council to approve the deal.

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