Tensions high as negotiations continue about...
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Feb 17, 2017  |  Vote 0    0

Tensions high as negotiations continue about future of Lear Corporation's Whitby plant

Hundreds of jobs on the line as union informs members of company's 'intent to enter into plant closure discussions'

Whitby This Week

WHITBY — More than 350 workers are fearing for their jobs after contract negotiations between Lear Corporation and the union came to a head Thursday with the company threatening to halt future production.

Unifor Local 222 president Colin James said the union has been meeting with Lear, a General Motors feeder plant in Whitby, for the past couple of weeks to reach an agreement that meets the needs of its members.

“We’ve been bargaining with Lear trying to get future work for our members; we currently have work that will be winding down,” he said.

Lear’s Whitby factory produces and ships car seats to GM Oshawa for assembly in Impala, Buick Regal, and Cadillac models. There are currently 353 full-time workers and 47 workers on layoff.

The union met with the company in December when an offer was tabled with “deep cuts to wages, pensions, benefits as well as workplace practices,” according to a letter sent to the membership on Feb. 16.

“For the future work that GM has picked up on, we are trying to attain an agreement that we pick up that work so our members have a future,” said James.

“However, we’ve been bargaining and with what Lear is asking of our members, it is unachievable, I believe. We’re willing to keep working to try and come to an agreement that both parties can live with.”

The letter goes on to say that on Thursday the union was informed by Lear that: “Without the concessions they are demanding, we cannot reach an agreement which would bring the truck seats into our facility” and that “their intent is to now enter into plant closure discussions."

Lear Corporation could not be reached for comment.

James said the work currently being done at the plant is expected to continue into the 2018/2019 time frame. Beyond that, the future is uncertain.

He added that most members are not surprised by the announcement based on how past negotiations have gone with the company.

“Lear is a difficult employer to bargain with ... we’ve demonstrated time and time again, we’re willing to bargain responsibly but we’re not willing to give up everything that we have achieved over our history,” he said.

He declined to discuss the specific contract concessions the company is requesting but said "they came in to bargaining with demands that I believe they knew were unachievable and would never get ratified by our membership."

Despite Lear’s announcement, James said he’s optimistic that there will be future work as contract talks continue. The deadline to reach a collective agreement is Feb. 28.

“Now that it’s out there there will be other players getting involved and I believe there’s always a possibility, so I’m optimistic that we will come up with something in the next couple of weeks.”

The letter to the members noted that the union has remained “united and strong” during this process.

“It’s just difficult when you’re talking (about) people’s livelihoods and we have a company asking us to — in order to consider a future for these people, giving up all their rights, really,” said James.

“In the position we’re in, our job is to negotiate for a better livelihood for people, not to start moving backwards.”

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(2) Comment

By | FEBRUARY 20, 2017 12:32 AM
Your comment is unjustified.Lear employees are happy with their current wage. Last contract they lost most of their benefits, they are doing 3 jobs in 1 now. The COMPANY is NOT being fair.Lear employees have been supplying GM quality seats for over 30 years! Talk to a Lear employee that works on the line before you judge!
By | FEBRUARY 18, 2017 09:06 AM
It is about time a company stand up to the unions. It is ridiculous tp expect a company keep uping their wages and benefit even when business is down and taxes are up. You can thank Wynn and Trudope for the carbon tax and electric hike that encourage our businesses to stay and produce more products. Why doesn't the union negotiate a flat rate work system so that employees only get paid what they produce....I like the car mechanics that fix their mistakes and don't get paid for it.
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