Having a union means more than negotiating wages, benefits and working conditions. It’s about establishing a support network of elected representatives inside the workplace to enforce the collective agreement, to address worker concerns, to monitor health and safety, and to provide training and offer general support. In Unifor auto plants, there are dozens of negotiated representatives available to assist members every day, a team built over decades of contract negotiations. In virtually every round of bargaining, the union attempts to expand and broaden the scope of in-plant representation.
This is the fundamental role of the union. Negotiating a workplace structure at Toyota would enable you and all Toyota Team Members to help each other and improve your standard of living on and off the job.
The following are examples of the roles and responsibilities of unionised Toyota Team Members and what union representation could look like based on positions commonly found in Unifor-represented auto assembly plants.
- Union Steward: a union steward is elected by the members to represent their interests in each department, line or designated area in the plant. Elected Union Stewards engage with members on a daily basis. If there is a problem with overtime pay, an equipment malfunction or problem with a supervisor, for example, a member will inform their Steward who will promptly handle the issue on the members’ behalf.
- Area/District representatives: To support the work of Stewards, Team Members would also elect Area or District Representatives, Team Members who oversee all union business within a designated Area or District of the plant. The Area or District Representative is responsible for supporting the work of Union Stewards, and stepping in to assist if an issue cannot be immediately resolved. This includes assisting in the resolution of grievances filed by Team Members. Team Members in the Skilled Trades have access to a dedicated, elected District Representative that deals exclusively with trades-related issues.
- In-plant Committee: All Area or District Representatives (along with an elected Skilled Trades Chairperson) in a facility comprise the In-Plant Committee. Members of the In-Plant Committee meet regularly (oftentimes daily) to discuss Team Members’ issues throughout the plant. The In-Plant Committee makes sure Union Stewards and company Supervisors apply contract provisions consistently, in all Departments and Districts, including on job postings and vacancies, for instance.
- Plant Chairperson: The Plant Chairperson oversees the work of the In-Plant Committee, and is the top elected union official in the plant. The Chairperson (or “Chair”) is ultimately responsible for all union matters in the facility. The Chair engages directly with the Plant Manager and Company officials, and communicates all critical matters to Team Members. Each Unifor assembly facility has its own elected Plant Chairperson and In-Plant Committee.
- Health and Safety Representatives: A trained union Health and Safety Representative is available to assist Team Members in the plant on each shift. These representatives carefully monitor health and safety issues in the facility and offer proactive and preventative guidance to keep Team Members safe, wherever required. They also participate in the workplace Joint Health and Safety Committee, along with the Plant Chairperson. Union Health and Safety Representatives operate without fear of employer reprisal, providing they follow proper guidelines and protocols under law.
- Ergonomic Representatives: A union Ergonomic Representative is stationed in each facility and responsible for monitoring member issues on work practices, equipment usage (e.g. efficiency ratings on torque guns) and injury prevention. The Ergonomics Representative will bring major issues to the attention of the Plant Chairperson and will directly engage with the employer through a Joint Union-Management Ergonomics Committee.
- Time Study Representatives: The union Time Study Representative ensures Team Members are working at a pace that does not put their health and safety at risk. Automakers have extraordinary power to adjust and accelerate assembly line speeds, which can be detrimental to workers’ health. Time Study Representatives monitor the pace of work, rate jobs and raise concerns with company officials through the Joint Union-Management Time Study Committee.
- WSIB Representatives: The union WSIB Representative stationed in each plant offers dedicated support and guidance for Team Members injured on the job, and supports them in their application for government and employer-sponsored benefits.
- Placement Representatives: A union Placement Representative is standard in all Unifor-Detroit Three production facilities. These individuals assist Team Members seeking work reassignment and return-to-work accommodation following an injury, for example.
- Benefits Representatives: The union Benefits Representative operates in each plant and assists Team Members with questions related to health benefit eligibility as well as Employment Insurance claim support during periods of layoff.
- Equity Representatives: The in-plant union Equity Representative is responsible for workplace human rights issues, including bullying and racism. The Equity Representative assists union Team Members facing discrimination or a denial of basic rights and coordinates with company officials (through a Joint union-management Equity Committee) to resolve complaints and promote a harassment-free workplace.
- Employment Family Assistance Program (EFAP) Representatives: The union EFAP Representative assists workers and their family members who may be dealing with personal issues, including addiction, drug or alcohol abuse and mental health struggles. The EFAP Representative provides confidential referrals to appropriate counselling, community support as well as treatment and rehabilitation services.
- Grievance Coordinator: Union members in auto plants have access to a grievance procedure, which is a formal complaint system for alleged violations of the collective agreement. Typically, the union will assign a Grievance Coordinator to track grievances and ensure a timely resolution. The Grievance Coordinator may advise the Plant Chairperson and appropriate National Union Staff Representative whether a particular late-stage grievance warrants final stage arbitration.
- Environmental Representatives: The Environment Representative is responsible for monitoring the environmental impact of in-plant work practices and addressing waste, such as oil spills, leakages. Working collaboratively with company officials, the Environment Representative also monitors the proper storage, use and transportation of hazardous materials and provides regular reports to the Plant Chairperson and union membership.
- Women’s Advocate: The Women’s Advocate is a specially trained union member who assists women with concerns such as workplace harassment, intimate partner violence, and abuse. The Women’s Advocate is not a counselor but rather provides support for women accessing community and workplace resources.
- Racial Justice Advocate: The Racial Justice Advocate is a groundbreaking workplace representative in Canada, first negotiated during Unifor-Detroit Three auto talks in 2020. The Racial Justice Advocate is a union representative trained to assist fellow Team Members who are Black, Indigenous or People of Colour facing racism or harassment. This Advocate will work collaboratively with company officials to establish and implement a workplace Racial Justice Action Plan.