News Column

Canadian Auto Workers Told to Stay on Job as Talks Continue

Sept. 17, 2012

Alisa Priddle

With the midnight strike deadline looming, the CAW is hoping to hammer out the framework for a new national agreement with Ford today and avoid a strike that would affect operations on both sides of the border.

If a deal is reached with Ford, it would then be taken to GM and Chrysler to match.

In these final hours, the union sent an update to the membership this morning saying "it is essential that all members at all locations across the three chains stay on the job."

"Failure to do so will have serious negative consequences on your bargaining committee's ability to achieve the best possible collective agreement. Our bargaining power depends completely on our collective discipline."

Ford emerged as the lead company over three weeks of bargaining because the Dearborn-based automaker was the most receptive to a proposal to reduce new hire rates whereas General Motors and Chrysler continue to demand a two-tier wage system similar to the one adopted by the UAW.

The CAW has proposed starting new hires at a lower rate and extending the grow-in period from six years to 10. That would reduce cost but ensure Canadian workers they would reach top wage -- a key distinction from the two-tier system where a worker may never reach parity with senior workers.

This morning CAW leadership said while high-level talks are focused on Ford, the union continues to talk with all three companies and is prepared to strike when time runs out tonight.

"We do not yet have a deal with Ford, there are many details still to be worked out, the latest union update says. "Even at this late stage, negotiations are fluid and it is still possible that talks with Ford could fall apart.

"Should we not reach a tentative agreement before today's deadline of September 17, 2012 at 11:59 p.m., we could have a work stoppage at any one or even all three of the companies. We are optimistic though that with this latest development a strike can be avoided."

A strike at all three automakers would affect about 20,000 workers: 8,000 at both General Motors and Chrysler and about 4,500 at Ford.

Canadian operations represent about 16% of North American production.

Many of the vehicles made in Canada are not sold elsewhere, including Chrysler minivans and full-size sedans, Ford and Lincoln crossovers and a key Cadillac launch.

The companies say Canada has become the most expensive place to build vehicles while the union says its sacrifices during the downturn are not being appreciated.

The threat of moving production out of Canada has been raised in the rising rhetoric leading up to tonight's deadline.

Source: (c)2012 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by MCT Information Services

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