Magna inks contract deal at Ontario seating plant

* Contract agreement ratified by 78.2 percent

* Freezes wages, but includes cost of living increase

* Plant supplies seats for Chrysler minivans

TORONTO, Nov 8 (BestGrowthStock) – Workers at a Magna International
Inc (MG.TO: ) plant in southern Ontario voted in favor of a new
contract agreement with the auto parts maker, preventing a
strike that could have crippled production of Chrysler minivans
in the province.

The Canadian Auto Workers union said on Monday that a
two-year collective agreement was ratified by 78.2 percent of
the membership on Sunday at the Integram Seating plant in
Tecumseh, Ontario.

Over 700 workers at the plant, which makes seats for
Chrysler minivans, assembled in nearby Windsor, Ontario, had
voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike if a deal had not
been reached by Sunday at 11:59 p.m.

CAW Local 444 President Rick Laporte said that the new
agreement keeps wages at current levels, but includes two lump
sum bonuses for workers, as well as advances in post-retirement
benefits.

He said the age that people qualify for the benefits has
been reduced to 55 from 60, as long as they have spent at least
30 years at the company.

The deal also includes a cost of living agreement, which
will see workers’ wages topped up in September 2012 to match
the rise of inflation.

“It’s the first parts manufacturer that I’m aware of that
has any kind of cost of living agreement in place,” said
Laporte. “To me that’s pretty historic.”

One of the key sticking points in negotiations had revolved
around workers’ right to strike.

About three years ago, Magna founder Frank Stronach and
then-CAW President Buzz Hargrove struck a deal called the
Framework of Fairness Agreement (FFA), which made it easier for
unions to organize at Magna’s plants in Canada, but in turn
took away the right to strike.

The Integram plant organized long before the FFA came into
place, but Magna wanted the agreement to be included in any
deal reached in the latest round of negotiations, Laporte
said.

He said that he came out of the talks with a side letter
saying the FFA will not be instituted during the life of the
collective agreement, which expires on Nov. 11, 2012.
(Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Rob Wilson)

Magna inks contract deal at Ontario seating plant