Toyota workers will drive collective bargaining, and draw up what demands will be negotiated, after joining Unifor.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada members may wonder what will be the first order of business after they vote for a voice in how they work. Bargaining a first contract is at the top of the agenda, and it will be a democratic process where workers have the final say, said Bob Van Cleef, Unifor organizer.

“We take them through the first steps, and they will elect their bargaining committee,” said Van Cleef. “No one from Unifor will have a vote on an agreement at any time, only workers have a vote.”

Once they sit down to talk contract, there is no reason the automaker enjoying record sales and profits, cannot set the pattern other automakers will follow in contract talks, added John Aman, Unifor director of organizing. “Toyota workers should be leading, but the workers will be the ones that have the say, they will elect their bargaining committee, set the priorities and ultimately approve the deal.”

Toyota may have a status similar to GM’s CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, which has its contract independent of GM Canada’s other plants, said Unifor Local 88 President Dan Borthwick, representing CAMI workers. Still, its economics, including wages and benefits are “99.9 per cent” of what other GM plants have.

“We get into the differences with non-economic stuff,” largely governing working conditions in the plant, said Borthwick. “We tweak a few things.”

He sees it as the ideal balance of the pattern bargaining of a national union with a measure of independence Toyota workers will enjoy. For example, CAMI has bargained a deal that sees mandatory Saturday overtime taken as time off the job. When workers accumulate 40 hours owing, after a few weeks, they can take a week off with pay.

No other auto plant offers that, and it has proven popular with all workers, said Borthwick. “I always tell our committee, when you’re bargaining, you represent 2,500, not yourself.”