GRAZ, Austria - The Canadian Auto Workers Union wants to organize Magna International plants in Canada, and Austrian unionists want to organize two Magna plants in Weiz.
In North America, the labor union fears that Magna may start to design and build complete cars from scratch with non-union labor that earns about half the pay of union workers.
In Austria, unions want to spread their strong tradition in Graz and Steyr to Weiz, the poverty-stricken hometown of Magna Founder Frank Stronach. Magna acquired Steyr-Daimler-Puch this year.
While Canadian supply giant Magna International has successfully kept unions out of most of its plants in Canada and the USA, it has acquired a stronghold of unionism in Steyr-Daimler-Puch.
Blue collar workers in both divisions of SDP, in the old industrial cities of Steyr and Graz, are 100 percent union, say the union leaders.
'Even workers on a manpower leasing scheme, working in Steyr, are fully union,' says Leopold Tatzreiter, the chairman of the joint works councils and trade unions in Steyr. 'Up to now we have not felt any anti-union move by the new management. But of course it has been only a very short time.'
Two small Magna plants set up several years ago in Weiz have kept unions out, said Tatzreiter, by 'using the whip of high unemployment in Weiz.'
At Steyr-Fahrzeugtechnik in Graz, works council president Werner Wenk said, 'I had some long talks with Frank Stronach about us being fully union and not letting that go. Always he reiterated that he never would touch workers' organizations, although he does not see their necessity.