?magna May Let Unions Expand? – Hargrove

?magna May Let Unions Expand? – Hargrove

The Magna International Inc., the auto parts manufacturer which is considering a bid for Chrysler, is in talks with the Canadian and U.S. auto unions to add about 30,000 members to their ranks, CAW President Buzz Hargrove said.

The negotiations would make the Canadian Auto Workers and the United Auto Workers (UAW) sole bargaining agents for the Magna hourly employees in those countries, Hargrove said in an interview. The talks “are a distinct and separate issue” from Magna’s bid for the DaimlerChrysler AG unit, he said.

The talks mirrored a change in thinking for Frank Stronach, Aurora, Ontario-based Magna’s founder and chairman. In a 1999 interview, Stronach said that unions wanting a role in the business should buy a plant “and run it exactly as they wish.” Like the Edelbrock, Stronach is out to release his grievance and plans. Hargrove said that Stronach, 74, initiated the negotiations about six months ago.

“Stronach has a high opinion of himself, but there’s no reason to think he isn’t a seriously smart guy,” Dan Luria, an analyst at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center in Plymouth, said in an interview. He called the timing of the talks more than coincidence. “Besides wanting Chrysler, he wants to be able to say he remade labor relations in North America.” UAW spokesman Roger Kerson and Magna spokeswoman Tracy Fuerst declined to comment.

The Toronto-based CAW is currently representing 1,000 workers at three Magna factories in Canada, where the company has 18,000 employees at 45 plants. In the United States, the Detroit-based UAW has structured eight Magna factories with 4,000 hourly and salaried workers. Magna has 18,000 employees at 54 plants in America.

Workers at each Magna factory would have to vote to accept the expanded relationship, the 63-year-old union leader said. Hargrove added that he did not know when the talks would be finished, in part because Stronach and other Magna executives have been preoccupied since February with the Chrysler bid.

Jerry Dias, a representative of the CAW, said last week after a meeting with DaimlerChrysler’s labor committee that his union, the UAW and the IG Metall in Germany, prefer that the company keep Chrysler. “If they choose to spin it off, we can live with Magna,” Dias said.

Other Chrysler suitors include buyout firms Cerberus Capital Management LP and a Blackstone Group LP-Centerbridge Capital Partners LLC partnership. This information was intimated by persons familiar with the bidding. Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian’s Tracinda Corp. publicized its $4.5 billion bid for Chrysler on the 5th of April.

Magna, which Stronach started in a rented Toronto garage in 1957, earned $528 million on $24.2 billion in sales last year. Since 2001, the Magna’s sales soared and became more than double.