Is Linamar getting a fair shake trying to hire 15 foreign electricians?

By Gerry Barker

August 8, 2017

Years ago, I was employed by Magna International. I was named general manager of a venture to create a new Canadian business magazine titled Vista. In a few months I learned a lot about Magna’s manufacturing ability. The company was creating record business, making a wide variety of parts for new vehicles for the majority of auto manufacturers.

The concept of on-time delivery of those parts to the assembly plants located all over North America and Europe at that time was fairly new. Magna had many manufacturing facilities throughout Canada and the U.S. to meet the strict deadlines for each assembly plant. Their success in meeting those deadlines made the assembly operations more efficient.

I recall that the most pressing need was for tool and die makers. It forced the company to import trained personnel mostly from Frank Stonach’s homeland, Austria, to create the parts. If Canadian authorities had prevented the import of skilled technicians, Magna would not be the company it is today, a world leader in not only supplying parts but also assembling complete vehicles.

The parallels between Magna and Linamar are striking. Both companies were each founded by two skilled immigrants who had the vision of building great corporations.

That was almost 60 years ago and cultures change, people change and so do attitudes.

Last year, Linamar applied to the Department of Employment Social Development Canada to hire 15 foreign-trained electricians. The company argued that they could not retain Canadian electricians. Linamar stated that when they were successful hiring Canadoan electricians, they left for a number of reasons. Those reasons varied from shift work to low wages and benefits.

The department denied the request in 2016 so Linamar appealed to have its case reviewed by Justice Luc Martineau. He supported the decision by the federal employment department and last month rejected the application as published by Guelph Today’s reporter, Tony Saxon.

The Justice heard evidence from the Electrical Workers Construction Council of Canada, representing unionized electrical workers, that there was a high unemployment rate of electricians in the Guelph area. The source of that information was never revealed.

That seems to fly in the face of the claims by the city administration that Guelph has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada. Are the qualified electricians alledgedly the only worker group that is unemployed in the Guelph Area?

Keep in mind that Linamar emplys 6,000 workers in Guelph, none of whom are members of a union.

Also, keep in mind that Linamar is the largest non-public employer and taxpayer operating in Guelph with 19 plants to meet its contract obligations with auto industry customers.

When the importation of skilled foreign workers helped Magna grow and prosper, why is Linamar being denied the same right in 2017?

Now, Guelph is a city where there is a large number of unionized public workers. For example, the city employs some 2,100 of which 80 per cent are unionized and the balance belong to a management association. It is estimated that there are more than 5,800 employees in the city being paid from the public purse. That includes the University of Guelph, Guelph Hydro, Guelph/Wellington Public Health services, Guelph General Hospital and the St. Joseph’s Senior Living and Rehab Centre, Ontario service employees, and Federal government employees

The Ontario Liberal government has allowed the growth of these public unions, the number of which has grown exponentially in the past 14 years of the McGuinty/Wynne Liberal governments. Not only has public employee wages and benefits soared but their numbers have increased substantially. In that space of time, the growth of the public sector employees has far outstripped that of the non-union corporations.

The Saxon story generated a lot of comments, mostly attacking Linamar’s employment practices. The main beefs, according to the comments was the company’s shift times that were hard on workers, and also the average pay per hour was only $20. This shift system is described as the “continental” when workers are required to work 12-hour shifts and change starting times every two weeks. Based on that, it would appear that Linamar workers are working slighly more than three days in a 40-hour week.

Given the circumstances, it appears the Electrical Workers Council is denying a major Guelph corporation the right to hire skilled electricians from outside Canada. That is a striking example of a union-based organization protecting its turf. As a former union member and shop steward, I recognize the role of organized labour and the right of collective bargaining.

In this case, the eeelectrical workersw union council has stepped over the line and interfered with the operation of a major Canadian company that is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

We’re talking here about hiring 15 skilled employees because the Canadian electricians don’t want to leave the cocoon of their trade union to work in a non-union shop.

The fact that a federal government department is supporting suppression of hiring skilled foreign workers, particularly when 47,000 Syrian refugees were allowed in last year, did the Trudeau government specify that no electricians would be permitted entry?

Just asking.

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10 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

10 responses to “Is Linamar getting a fair shake trying to hire 15 foreign electricians?

  1. Louis

    Linamar wants to get the cheapest labor possible. They I find don’t want the $15 minimum wage, they are wanting large profits. Not sky high taxes and to hire the cleanest labor around

  2. Guido

    Linamar could decide to move to the US where employment conditions are different. Where would we be then???

  3. Glen

    A few questions: What is the going rate for a qualified journeyman industrial electrician? If the plants did not operate on a continental 2 shift basis would they be able to fulfill the contracts with the automotive companies on a just-in-time basis? How many unemployed unionized or otherwise industrial journeymen electricians are there in Guelph? Will a union card carrying electrician work for Linamar for the local going rate (above $29/hr)?

  4. Spend

    I thought PM Selfie would have supported the Linamar request as he certainly likes to use them for photo ops. Same for Scandals and Wynneter is coming.

  5. Jerry

    If Linamar packs up and goes to the states she can say goodbye to the government loans/ grants she gets from the federal and provincial governments..It would also cost her a fortune to move all the factories south so i doubt she would be going anywhere.This is the whole reason why minimum wages in Ontario have to raised.For to many years companies like Linamar has been getting away with hiring people for low wages or temp workers that get treated like slaves.Have you ever worked in one of her plants as a temp worker?.It is horrible,you are treated like a slave.You get told when to take breaks and for how long.(usually shorter than the other workers).You get told to finish up all the skids work before you go or the superviser will not sign the work papers for you.And if you complain they move you to another plant that is worse.You try standing in water/anti freeze and oil all day long.See Ms Linamar brings in these other workers pays them low wages so they can barely survive and then bosses them around.They cant just quit their jobs because it is part of the process of immigrating to Canada.So they are stuck.So Gerry you are looking at this at the wrong end of the spectrum.Try looking at the people end and you will get a different opinion.Have a great day.

    • Spend

      The cost of moving factories out of Guelph might be a fortune, but the cost of doing business in Ontario is nearing a fortune. Rising labour costs and especially rising hydro rates courtesy and of the Liberals Green Energy fiasco endanger these important jobs.

  6. Guido

    I am not trying to defend Linamar, nor am I antiunion, but they could take the posture all future expansion could be elsewhere. They may lose Ontario grants, but I can tell you many US states are more generous then Ontario. There are ways that the govt could require Linamar to meet certain requirements in order to meet their needs. You have to be pragmatic on this issue.

  7. DAVID BIRTWISTLE

    In response to your titled question I figure that the PM is hoping that the current crop of “refugees?” entering QUEBEC will include electricians to fill the dire need of Linamar

  8. Jerry

    Hi Spend.You say rising labour costs and Hydro rates are making Ontario to expensive to do business in Ontario.See again you are looking at it from the high tower,try looking at it from the workers end.For too many years the big business were making record profits and paying the workers peanuts.The rise of labour costs means more for the economy.The workers are the ones buying houses,groceries,new items to make their lives better.The executives are flying to Europe,Buying luxury cars from other countries and such.Now the Hydro rates can be blamed on the liberals. yes but also the rich corporations that make big donations so the liberals can afford to payoff the unions so the workers vote to put back in power.This unions get this golden packages from the government which in turn they give the workers.Now you are right on one thing this is endangering jobs in Ontario but the big danger comes from corporations that bring in foreign workers instead of paying Canadian workers properly.Before you get all upset about the foreign worker comment let me clarify.I do not have a problem with them.The only thing is let them have a
    fair hand.We should be like the states in this aspect were a company has to prove that there is no Canadian residents that can do this job.Not that there is but we will not pay them fairly.

  9. Jerry

    Guido your comment is very true but you have to look at it this way.Right now our dollar is better than the states greenback.I mean by this is that a lot of companies buy our product with American currency because they get a better return.And in business the bigger return the more money they make at the end of the year.Many countries know we make a far better product then the states so they shop here.That is why when trump started talking about Nafta the governors from the states that surround Ontario were coming to us. They were saying lets still do business because we need Canadian products.

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