Tension up ahead of Toyota Canada plant union vote

Wed Mar 19, 2008 4:54pm EDT
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - Workers at a Canadian Toyota assembly plant are set to vote on Thursday on whether to make their workplace the first wholly owned Asian auto plant in North America to be unionized, but a last-minute obstacle threatens to invalidate the ballot.

On the eve of the vote, union representatives at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc's (7203.T: Quote), Cambridge, Ontario, plant, said that tension was rising, and charged the company with trying to intimidate workers.

"They're trying to put the fear into the minds of the workers leading up to the vote on Thursday," said Ian Morland, an organizer for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union.

"Last night there was a large police presence at the gate trying to prohibit us from leafleting the work force."

The union filed unfair labor practice charges against Toyota Canada earlier this week, saying the company had threatened that job security and plant expansion would be jeopardized if workers voted to unionize.

Toyota, which said it is not giving interviews on the subject, released a statement on Tuesday saying it encourages all its members to take part in the vote.

"Despite the union's tactics of posting unproved allegations in the media, we believe our team members understand that we have communicated fairly to them," the statement read.