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January 1, 1986 -

UAW members gathered in Toronto in early September 1985 to found the new National Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of Canada. The 318 delegates approved a constitution for the UAW-Canada and adopted policy statements which, among other things, call for sanctions against South Africa, urge the affiliation of all UAW-Canada locals with the NOP, and reaffirm UAW solidarity with the African National Congress.

Various labour leaders conveyed greetings; Herman Rebhan, general secretary of the 14-million member International Metalworkers' Federation, told the delegates, "Autoworkers around the world find themselves divided by nationality, by language and by colour, but share the common burden of being exploited by multinationals" (Canadian Labour, October 1985, p. 5).

A Japanese Challenge

According to Wilfrid List, labour reporter for the Globe and Mail, the new UAW-Canada already faces a significant challenge close to home, with the decision by two Japanese auto makers to open factories in Ontario within the next two years. Honda and Toyota have announced that Japanese production methods and labour relations policies—based on greater worker participation in plant floor decisions and a simple and flexible system of few job classifications—will be introduced to newly recruited workforces in Alliston and Cambridge.

The union will likely have a difficult time attracting workers to its adversarial approach. If it does succeed in organizing the workers and agrees to a more co-operative labour-management approach, there will be great pressure from GM, Chrysler and Ford to revise the very inflexible agreements UAW-Canada has with them.

Canada is competing with the United States for new Japanese factories, and in terms of its members' employment, UAW-Canada has much to gain by having Japan build here. The union therefore cannot afford to demand more costly and inflexible contract terms than those already in place at Japanese-owned plants in the U.S.

It is clearly in UAW-Canada's best interests, List concludes, to begin exploring new methods of labour relations with the Big Three auto makers. (Globe and Mail, December 16, 1985)