Magna International Inc., the parts maker considering a bid for Chrysler, is in talks with Canadian and U.S. auto unions that may add as many as 30,000 members to their ranks, the Canadian union's leader said.
The negotiations would make the Canadian Auto Workers and the United Auto Workers sole bargaining agents for Magna hourly employees in those countries, CAW President Buzz Hargrove said in an interview Tuesday. The talks "are a distinct and separate issue" from Magna's bid for the DaimlerChrysler AG unit, he said.
The talks represent a change in thinking for Frank Stronach, Magna's founder and chairman, who said in a 1999 interview that unions wanting a role in the business should buy a plant "and run it exactly as they wish." Hargrove said 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," said Dan Luria, an analyst at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center in Plymouth, who 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."
Stronach, who built Aurora, Ontario-based Magna into Canada's largest auto-parts maker, said in its annual report that the current labor-relations system is the North American auto industry's biggest handicap.
UAW spokesman Roger Kerson and Magna spokeswoman Tracy Fuerst declined to comment.