Oct 29, 2007 04:30 AM
A crack has appeared in the wall of support among the leadership of the Canadian Auto Workers for a controversial deal
with Magna International Inc. that would eliminate the right to strike.
Chris Buckley, president of CAW Local 222 in Oshawa, is opposing the historic deal that would make it easier for the union
to organize Magna plants in exchange for giving up the employees' right to strike.
"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," Buckley said in an open letter to CAW president Buzz Hargrove late last week.
"Buzz, a `no-strike' clause goes against the fundamental right of unionized workers."
Buckley's position is the first sign of open dissent within the union's top leadership over the agreement with Magna, which
currently has only a small union presence. He will seek support from his executive board and membership later this week.
Opposition by Local 222 could trigger further dissent in the CAW and carry weight when more than 800 union delegates vote
on the Magna agreement at a national council meeting in December.
That's because Local 222 is the largest single unit in the CAW with 23,000 members at General Motors and regional auto
Hargrove said yesterday he had received unanimous support from the CAW's top leaders at the Big Three auto manufacturers
and parts operations earlier this month and still expects approval by the national council.
"I anticipate there will be good solid support," Hargrove said.
Buckley, who could not be reached for comment, had originally supported the Magna deal but reversed his position after
hearing from workers on the shop floor and other leaders in the local, according to union sources.
In reply to a question, Hargrove also confirmed Buckley had changed his mind.
"I'm more troubled than disappointed," Hargrove said. "In all my years as head of the CAW, this has never happened to me
where a major leader in the union has done this."
Hargrove said he would not attend the two Local 222 meetings to debate the Magna deal because he does not want to interfere
in its decisions.
Under the "Framework of Fairness" agreement with Magna, workers would not have to right to strike but management could
not lock them out. The two sides would settle disputes through binding arbitration.
Aurora-based Magna, the country's biggest independent auto parts maker, will allow voluntary union recognition at up to
45 plants employing 18,000 workers. Workers at each plant will vote on a tentative first contract that will decide whether
they want union representation.
Supporters of the "Framework of Fairness" deal say Magna workers, who vote for the union and pay dues, will benefit because
of better protection and the ability to win future contract improvements.
Critics of the deal say the loss of the right to strike takes away a fundamental historic right from employees in exerting
pressure on management for change and gains in wages and benefits.
They also say the selection of worker representatives with management input and other provisions in the agreement undermine
the union, weaken other locals in the auto parts sector and could seriously hurt the labour movement.
Buckley said in his letter the agreement will pose obvious threats to other CAW members in the parts sector who compete
"The process of awarding contracts for product is in a cut-throat state already," he added. "Suppliers employing my members
completely lose any playing field if the right to strike becomes a factor in the competition's favour."
Buckley also noted the deal has long-term negative implications for unions in Canada.
"Without the ability to legally withdraw our labour, there is little left by way of leverage for the working class in Canada,"
he said in the letter.
"Our principles also state: `In our society, private corporations control the workplace and set the framework
for all employees.' Does this no longer apply? Are we now bowing to corporations like Magna? Without the right to strike,
there is no counter balance to that corporate power."