Time off the job
Production workers at Toyota have a name for it – job hardening. Its when you work long hours, at a fast pace and you hurt. Problem is, the hurt is not going away.
Just down Highway 401, at Cami, the Unfior autoworkers face the same pace, and have negotiated a solution.
“The line work is grueling, its the pace, you actually feel pain,” said one Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada worker.
Some issues are:
- Workers have about 55 seconds at their station at the north plant, a little longer at other plants.
- What is suppsoed to be job rotation every two hours gives way to favoritism by management.
- Injuries are common, especially wrist and hand.
- Nine hour shifts Monday to Thursday have gone to 10 hours at the Woodstock plant, will go to 10 in February at the north plant and rumour is the Lexus line will soon follow.
- Saturday overtime shifts are becoming more common.
At Cami, Unifor has bargained more time off the job.
- Close to 200 temporary part time workers are available to fill in when a Unifor worker wants a day off. They are mostly students and children of full time workers. Some earn up to $30,000 a year, helping families with the cost of school.
- They only work when a Unifor member wants a day off, and cannot be scheduled.
- A new time bank deal sees Saturday overtime shifts booked as 12 hours vacation, and when it hits 40 hours workers get a week's paid vacation, and temporary workers take the shift.
- That means workers get a week off a month, paid, if they choose.
- Management has embraced both programs, as temporary workers are paid $20 an hour.
“It is a dead serious issue,” said Cami Unifor Local 88 chairperson Mike Van Boekel, on worker fatigue. “This gives workers a beak, its fantastic.”
Toyota has its "pedal to the metal" when it comes to production and profits in Canada, and it is time to share its wealth with workers, said Jim Stanford, economist with Unifor.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. is "critical" to the automaker with revenue growing 15 per cent this year over last to $12.5 billion, more than $2 billion a month, he said during a recent telephone town hall call-in.
"Toyota is a profitable, consistently successful company," which has recovered from the economic downturn and impact of the Japanese tsunami, he said.
"The company is back, firing on all cylinders."
Among Stanford's observations:
- TMMC produced 519,000 units last year and production is ramping up. In the last three months 139,000 vehicles were assembled, an annual pace to make 560,000 vehicles.
- Its labour costs in Canada are in line with labour costs in the northern U.S. and will drop if the Canadian dollar drops in value.
- TMMC assembles vehicles for sale in North America "Toyota's strongest market" and sales here are rising, make the Ontario plants vital to the automaker.
- Stanford and Unifor National President Jerry Dias sit with TMMC chief executive Ray Tanguay on the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council and enjoy a good working relationship with the CEO, which will continue once the plant is unionized.
- Toyota works "very well" with unions in plants around the world, and will at TMMC as well.
"They are in Canada for the long run and will learn to deal well with the union here. Canada is very important to Toyota and will stay that way," said Stanford.
"There is no doubt Toyota is here to stay."
Workers at Toyota's auto assembly plants in Cambridge and Woodstock want a greater say in how they work.
Unifor, the union, is signing workers at both sites to union cards, an organizing drive geared to bettering the working conditions at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Corp.
"The auto sector is very important to Canada's economy and autoworkers (union and non union alike) play a pivotal role in this success. Too many time, though autoworkers are either expected to shoulder an unfair burden or not receive their fair share when times are good," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.
"We need to unite and ensure the gains we have made in the auto sector such as our working conditions and benefits are are respected and adhered to. Unifor is committed to all of you."
The union has heard loud and clear that workers need a greater say in issues such as wages, health and safety standards, pensions and contract workers, to name a few.
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"There is no consistency, it's like management changes the rules to suit their needs."
An eight-year skilled trades veteran at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada
Hurt by a grueling schedule, short notice for working Saturdays and little relief, Toyota's skilled trades workers can look to Unifor on how to better their workplace.
Skilled trades working at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada are suffering fatigue, injury and less family time, due to tough working conditions, say workers.
But many of those problems have already been solved by Unifor at Cami Assembly, said Mike Van Boekel, chairperson Unifor Local 88, at Cami.
Toyota trades workers' concerns include:
- Most are on a rotation of one week on days, afternoons and midnight shifts. Production workers get a two-week rotation.
"It's so hard to recover, people are tired all the time, your body never gets a chance to adjust," said one Toyota trades employee.
- Cannot trade shifts with co-workers.
- Toyota gives trades only three days notice, at most, if working Saturday.
"It makes it impossible to plan a weekend, to have family time, you don't know if they will force you to work."
- Few apprentices in the plant, less opportunity to ease the workload.
"It would be great to have (more of) them here," added the worker.
Unifor skilled trades at Cami:
- Won in contract talks expanded apprentice program, from five to 13, increasing the pool of trades workers.
- If working a Saturday, must be notified eight days in advance.
- A rotation schedule means trades workers get at least one out of every three Saturdays off, if they choose.
- Rotation of two week shifts and can trade shifts if they choose.
- Bank Saturday mandatory overtime for use as extra vacation, once 40 hours is reached a one week paid vacation is booked.
"At Cami we are able to have a life outside the plant," said Van Boekel.
Making Toyota's contract workers full time employees will be a priority for Unifor when it unionizes the automaker, said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.
Unifor took to the airwaves in a recent telephone town hall call-in to hear directly from Toyota workers on how the union can help, and the status of contract workers was top of mind for some listeners.
"We see the importance of making temporary workers full time and that is our priority in bargaining," Dias said to one caller.
He also cited how Unifor won full time work for temporary employees at Cami Assembly in Ingersoll, a Unifor plant, during recent contract talks.
"It is a question of workplace fairness, our victory at Cami sends a message to future workers at Toyota there is a better way to do things."
Unifor economist Jim Stanford agreed, saying a pay grid for all workers would also help those now working on contract.
"One of the major issues in bargaining a first contract is a pay grid, that is what pay will start at, when (raises) come and when you will earn full pay. . . . . we would look at the experience you have with contract workers and what we have done at other plants such as Cami."
The status of contract workers was one of several issues raised by some of the nearly 600 workers, about 10 per cent of the Toyota workforce, that listened to the call in.
Other issues raised include how in-plant union officials are elected, union dues, gettign time off the job for family, and the "grow in" to earn top salary, to name a few.
"I would say that is a good response," said Angela Lee, project manager for Strategic Communications, the Toronto firm involved in the town hall.
"It's a good indication," of interest, from the callers, she added.
Join the Unifor Conversation
Ask Unifor President Jerry Dias and others any question about Unifor, Toyota and the auto industry. November 24, 2013. 5:00 pm Dial 1-877-229-8493 and Access code: 112250 and join in on the call.