After reaching agreement with Ford on Monday afternoon, the Canadian Auto Workers agreed to extend talks with General Motors and Chrysler indefinitely as long as there is progress.
The CAW agreement to continue talks with GM and Chrysler came just hours after the union reached a tentative, four-year agreement with Ford on Monday afternoon. The union wants Chrysler and GM to accept the Ford agreement, but it may not be that simple.
"There are so many issues on the table that it would be impossible for GM and Chrysler to respond ... in a four-hour period," CAW President Ken Lewenza said late Monday.
Al Iacobelli, Chrysler's vice president of employee relations, and Cathy Clegg, GM's vice president of labor relations, joined the CAW's discussions in Toronto on Monday for the first time in recent days, Lewenza said.
Neither company discussed major issues in depth on Monday.
"I didn't get ... an aggressive negative response" from either company, Lewenza said. "The gap is still miles apart because we have a tremendous amount of work to do."
The deal with Ford, if ratified by the union's members, preserves a single wage structure. Newly hired workers would start at 60% of the full wage and gradually reach top pay in 10 years instead of six years in the old contract.
GM and Chrysler have been insisting on a separate wage structure for new hires similar to the UAW's deal with the Detroit Three in the U.S.
Lewenza vowed to break through that resistance and preserve the CAW tradition of reaching similar contracts with all three companies.
"We cannot, with good conscience, say to Ford, 'We have compromised the pattern that you established,' because ... it will give them an uncompetitive disadvantage, and we will not do that," he said.
Aaron Bragman, an automotive analyst with IHS Global Insight, said negotiations with both GM and Chrysler will be more difficult than with Ford.
GM has shown it is willing to move production from Canada to the U.S.
In June, GM said it plans to move forward with a previously announced closing of an assembly line at its Oshawa assembly plant that makes the Chevrolet Impala full-size sedan and some Chevrolet Equinox SUVs.
GM is preparing to build the all-new 2013 Impala at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant and is shifting some production of the Equinox to Spring Hill, Tenn.
The Spring Hill plant was idled during GM's 2009 Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring.
"The CAW is not negotiating from a position of strength when it comes to GM," Bragman said.
GM declined to comment on the of the Ford agreement.
"Our efforts remain focused on working with the CAW to achieve an agreement that addresses the competitive needs of GM Canada," the automaker said in a statement.
At Chrysler, the CAW is dealing with CEO Sergio Marchionne, who has lectured Lewenza in public about the need for absolute labor-cost parity between the U.S. and Canada.
Last year, in contract talks with the UAW, Marchionne scolded UAW President Bob King in writing for skipping a negotiating session with Chrysler so that he could meet with GM.
Earlier this month, Marchionne said that Chrysler would consider moving production out of Canada if the union didn't agree to Chrysler's demands.
The union decided Sunday to negotiate an agreement with Ford first. Lewenza said the Dearborn-based automaker was the most receptive to a contract that is different from the UAW's contract with the Detroit Three.
Ford, Lewenza said, pledged to invest in its Oakville, Ontario, plant and add 600 jobs during the life of the agreement.
The Dearborn automaker pledged to invest in tooling to produce a new global platform at the Oakville plant in 2014 to produce the next-generation Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX.
If ratified, the agreement would provide Ford's more than 4,500 CAW workers with three lump-sum payments of $2,000 during the life of the four-year agreement and a $3,000 signing bonus. However, it does not provide cost-of-living increases.
"We believe that the tentative agreement offers unique-to-Canada solutions that will improve the competitiveness of the Canadian operations while providing employees the opportunity to earn a good living," said Stacey Allerton, Ford's vice president, human resources.
Lewenza said the deal with Ford "meets the objective of our union and meets the objectives of our members ... but just as importantly, it meets the objectives of Ford Motor Company."
Unlike the UAW, the CAW did not receive profit-sharing commitments from Ford. The union also fell short of gaining a commitment for new engines at in Windsor and Essex, Ontario.
"I think it's certainly a modest deal in terms of cash outlays," said Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "It's about $7,000 less than the UAW deal in lump sums and signing bonuses."
More Details: CAW vs. UAW
UAW: The UAW agreed to a separate wage class for new hires in 2007 with a starting wage of just more than $14 per hour. In 2011, the UAW won pay increases for those newer workers, but no raises for pre-2007 hires.
CAW: The CAW has never agreed to a separate wage class for new hires. But it has accepted a lower starting wage and the extension of the path to top pay from six years to 10 years.
Cost of living
UAW: Cost-of-living increases were frozen during the 2009 bankruptcies and restructurings of Chrysler and General Motors. There is no COLA in the contract negotiated last year.
CAW: In Canada, COLA was frozen in 2009 but reinstated in June. The Detroit Three have asked the CAW to give up COLA.
UAW: The UAW agreed to revise its profit-sharing formula in a way that shares more of each company's North American profit.
CAW: The CAW for the first time has said it would consider profit sharing if management offers it.
Union ranks of Detroit Three
UAW: GM, 49,000; Ford, 42,000; Chrysler, 27,119
CAW: GM, 8,300; Chrysler, 8,000; Ford, 4,500
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