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Update: Ford workers accept new contract, GM next to ratify

CAW says Chrysler tone constructive, deal should come shortly.


September 24, 2012
Joe Terrett

TORONTO — Ford Canada’s unionized workers accepted a new contract over the weekend that will see the company’s plants bolstered by more than 600 planned new jobs but lower wages for new hires.

The Canadian Auto Workers says 82% of its members who voted approved the Ford deal, which was the first collective bargaining agreement reached between CAW negotiators and the Big Three North American automakers.

The CAW represents more than 4,500 Ford workers. A total of 3,000 voted, a union spokeswoman said.

The union and General Motors agreed on Sept. 20 to a tentative deal – similar to the Ford agreement. GM workers were to start voting on the offer Sept. 26.
Chrysler and the CAW have still not reached an agreement, but the union said it was optimistic it can reach one within a week.

The union is in legal position to strike if at any point progress seriously stalls in the talks. It has promised to give 24 hours notice before a work stoppage.

Negotiations with Ford and General Motors suggest that Chrysler needs the time to hammer through terms of the framework agreement and also address specific issues affecting Chrysler, which has the largest presence in Canada of the three.

Lewenza said the tone of conversations Sept. 21 was constructive and respectful but added he has no illusions that the final efforts won’t be tough. Chrysler has been the most vocal in demanding concessions and breaking away from pattern bargaining.

The union boss has asked for a written proposal from the car company to focus discussions and says Chrysler is fully aware that following the pattern set by its American rivals is essential for the union.

“We’ll try to get it done. But if it breaks down in any way, we’ll give the 24-hours notice and we’ll utilize the tool but I’m anticipating we won’t need to do that in the next three or four days.”

Industry experts say Chrysler has no choice but accept the general terms of the framework agreement since it can’t afford a strike that would cripple its Canadian operations that account for about 25% of its global production.

“Chrysler full well knows they can talk around the edges of the contract a little bit but there’s going to be no adjustments made to the main provisions,” said Tony Faria of the University of Windsor Odette School of Business.

© 2012 The Canadian Press