Workers at Aurora auto parts manufacturer Kirchhoff Automotive are revving up their plans to unionize, an undertaking expedited following the June death of an assembly line worker.
Unifor, the largest private sector union in Canada that represents thousands of workers in the automotive industry, has been enlisted by Kirchhoff workers to assist with the organizing drive.
One Kirchhoff employee, who asked not to be named fearing possible discipline, said 50 more union cards need to be signed before the 300-worker plant is certified.
“It’s push, push, push,’’ said the employee of the pressure being faced by management.
The assembly-line workers are looking for better wages, improved benefits, clarification on rules and regulations regarding health and safety and implementation of a pension plan, among other requests.
Although there is no pension plan in place, the company has a profit-sharing plan that contributes money to an employee’s retirement fund.
“The workload is crazy at this place,’’ Hassan Mirza, a national organizing rep for Unifor, told the Star. “People are always under a lot of pressure. They need better protection in health and safety and they need better wages. Inflation is on the rise and they deserve the right to better protection.’’
Mirza, who is working on the membership drive with Tricia Brown, said he couldn’t say when Unifor started to sign up Kirchhoff workers, noting “we are very cautious in this effort.’’
Mirza declined to say when the organizing drive began or what percentage of workers are required to be signed.
“Regarding the organizing drive, all we can say is that we respect our employees’ rights,” said Niel Mukherjee, human resources manager for Kirchhoff in the Greater Toronto Area.
Kirchhoff has operated without a union since tool and die maker Peter van Schaik and Rob Simpson founded Van-Rob Stampings in 1979 with its first plant at the corner of Ellesmere and Kennedy Roads in Scarborough.
On June 10, an assembly-line worker at Kirchhoff’s Aurora plant was killed when he was struck on the head and chest with a stamping press. Almost immediately following the fatality, most of the workers at the plant were sent home.
“It was really sad that person died,’’ Mirza said.
The fatality has never been announced publicly by the company and there is no mention of the incident on the company’s website.
York Regional Police investigated, but only as an emergency service since it was a “workplace/industrial’’ mishap, according to spokesperson Laura Nicolle.
“If there is no specific criminal offence involved, then it’s not really a police matter,’’ Nicolle said.
Mukherjee confirmed the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Training and Skills Development is investigating the fatality.
“Two MLITSD inspectors and an engineer have been assigned and five orders have been issued to the employer,” ministry spokesperson Anu Dhar told the Star, adding that details of the “orders” cannot be revealed “due to the ongoing investigation.”
German-based Kirchhoff Automotive, a family-run company with 27 plants in 11 countries, bought Van-Rob in 2016.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION