Unifor withdraws Toyota certification after underestimating worker numbers

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Photo: flickr/Luc

Unifor has a hit a speed bump on its road to organizing three Toyota plants in Ontario.

The union's top brass announced late Thursday that they are withdrawing their certification application to become the bargaining agents for plants in Cambridge and Woodstock, Ontario, after employee lists released by Toyota showed that there are 1,000 more employees in the potential bargaining unit than Unifor had predicted. 

Just a few days earlier, Unifor organizers were confident that they had reached the 40 per cent threshold of union cards signed in order to proceed to a certification vote. They currently have about 3,000 union cards signed, just under half of the 6,500 employees the union had estimated based on publicly available reports. With Toyota's revelation that their employees number approximately 7,500, Unifor just falls short of the legal threshold.

Unifor leadership decided that rather than dispute the employers numbers, they'll back down from their certification application and focus on getting enough cards to make another attempt at a later date.

Unifor president Jerry Dias characterizes this as an escalation of their campaign.

"We had a tough choice to make," Dias said in a written statement. "We can engage in a lengthy legal battle about the employee list -- or we can build on the momentum we have and get more cards signed. We've chosen the latter."

Meanwhile Toyota management has requested that Unifor return the employee list that was provided to the union and the Ontario Labour Relations Board after the certification application was filed. The employee list contains the contact information for each of the workers at the three plants.

Jerry Dias told reporters at a press conference in Kitchener yesterday that union organizers will go over the list, "very carefully."

Pro-union workers at the plant remain hopeful that the organizing drive will work.

"Over 3,000 of us have signed cards at Toyota to join Unifor," said Ken Cleveland, a 17-year Toyota veteran in Cambridge, in a written statement. "This is a clear sign that people want a union and even this week, more cards were coming in. The problems facing Toyota team members have not been addressed. With an extra push, I know we'll be able to succeed."

Photo: flickr/Luc

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