* Workers vote 91.3 percent in favor of 3-year deal
* Deal freezes wages, lowers new hire wages
* Chrysler commits maintaining work for facility
TORONTO, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Workers at a Johnson Controls (JCI.N) factory in Canada that makes components for Chrysler minivans voted overwhelming in favor of a new contract late Sunday, averting a strike that could have shut down the automaker’s Windsor, Ontario, minivan plant.
The Lakeshore, Ontario, plant’s 120 employees, around 30 of whom are on indefinite layoff, voted 91.3 percent in favor of the three-year collective agreement, Dino Chiodo, a local executive at the Canadian Auto Workers union, said on Monday.
Job security was the main issue in the negotiations, which began a week ago, and workers were almost unanimous in their support of a strike mandate if no deal could be reached by the weekend.
The Johnson Controls plant, which is near the Detroit-Windsor border crossing, builds overhead interior components for the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Chrysler Voyager. Both are made at Chrysler’s Windsor assembly plant, which works on three shifts producing 1,226 vehicles a day. The plant employs about 4,500 people.
“Understanding the economic conditions that we’re in ... we tried to protect what we could with regard to the employees to maintain work for the next three years,” said Chiodo.
The agreement freezes wages and lowers entry wages for new hires, but also includes stronger healthcare protection and improved job security.
New hires will start at C$9 ($8.50) an hour less than current workers, but will close the gap in five years, Chiodo said. Most employees at the plant make C$24.15 an hour.
Cost of living wage increases were also scrapped for the life of the new contract.
Chiodo said that while Chrysler never sat in on any of the negotiations between the CAW and Johnson Controls, the automaker did give assurances that it would work with the union and the company to maintain work for the facility.
“We needed to make sure that there was work available for the 90 employees, so under that premise, Chrysler, with Johnson Controls have committed to maintain the work,” he said.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Johnson Controls also makes auto seating and electronic components, batteries, and building heating and ventilation systems. ($1=$1.06 Canadian) (Reporting by John McCrank) ((email@example.com; +1 416 941 8083; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org))