Workers at Magna-owned Windsor Modules join CAW

Overwhelming support for ‘Framework of Fairness’

The first Framework of Fairness agreement, the controversial new union-management relationship negotiated between Magna International and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union, was ratified recently by employees of Magna-owned Windsor Modules. About 87 per cent of the over 200 workers who turned out to vote on November 7 also approved of the voluntary recognition of the CAW as their union.

There are about 250 employees in total in the newly-formed bargaining unit at the plant, located in Windsor, Ontario. They produce door components for Chrysler minivans, assembled at plants in Windsor and St. Louis, Missouri.

Under the three-year agreement, production workers will receive a $3-an-hour increase right away, in addition to a cost of living adjustment every August equal to the Consumer Price Index annual increase for Ontario. They, along with the skilled trades, will also receive a 50¢-per-hour wage increase after six months’ service and again after one year. However, even with this boost to wages, they will earn less than what most other Magna workers earn, according to a union official quoted in a report in the Windsor Star. An internal memo from the executive of CAW Independent Parts and Suppliers Council to its members, says union dues will be the equivalent of two hours and 20 minutes per month.

Seniority employees who are laid off will receive 60 per cent of their weekly income to the EI maximum to cover the two-week waiting period for employment insurance. Language around seniority rights includes plant-wide rights to bump in the event of a layoff and recall rights, as well as clarification of job postings and shift transfers.

The workers will elect a CAW Fairness Committee in each department or each zone and shift. The committee will recommend an employee advocate who will become a member of the CAW Magna local executive and have an office in the plant to deal with members’ needs. This set-up replaces the plant steward/grievance process in place at other unionized companies.

There are over 40 other plants owned by Magna in Ontario and about 60 in all of Canada, which await similar recognition votes. The CAW represents workers at just three Magna-owned plants in Ontario (two in Windsor and one in Mississauga).

Magna chairman Frank Stronach first publicly broached the idea for the Framework of Fairness at Magna’s annual meeting in the spring of 2006, although the Globe and Mail has reported that Stronach approached CAW president Buzz Hargrove informally as early as the autumn of 2005 during the CAW’s last round of negotiations with the Big Three automakers.

Although giving up the right to strike in favour of final-offer arbitration has been a sticking point for many in the CAW and the union movement as a whole, some CAW officials see even more threatening underlying problems, including two-tier wage grids and the ever-rising Canadian dollar, which make Canadian parts more expensive for assembly plants in the United States.

Latest stories