Jacqueline Oliva, Chrysler Canada's Labour Relations representative, shakes hands with Peter Kennedy, Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) national secretary treasurer, while CAW representatives prepare to discuss contract negotiations with Chrysler Canada representatives, in Toronto, August 14, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Brett Gundlock
"We expect the company to reward our members and to allow our members to share in their success," said Chris
Buckley, chair of the CAW's GM master bargaining committee. "All three car companies are doing a lot better than they were four years ago."
In 2008-2009, GM and Chrysler managed to survive an economic crisis when they received government bailouts and workers offered up concessions.
The two automakers have since repaid the government loans designed to help them weather the economic storm.
A General Motors source said this week that Canada was "the most expensive place in the world" to make vehicles.
CAW national president Ken Lewenza doesn't buy, saying Tuesday that a decade ago, an 80-cent dollar made Canadian operations the "most competitive in the world."
"Yet they didn't invest in Canada. In fact, they closed down facilities coinciding with market share losses," he said. "So to argue that we're the most high-cost manufacturer today quite frankly is not consistent."
Blaming the loonie for "some pain," Lewenza said the companies rarely mention their retail success in Canada.
"On the export side, there's some challenges relative to the Canadian dollar," he said. "But there has to be a balanced approach, the same way there was a balanced approach when we had a favouring Canadian dollar in collective bargaining."
CAW representatives also met with Chrysler later on Tuesday, and will sit down with the Ford Motor Corp. on Wednesday.
Negotiations are expected to be tough, with the companies putting forward concessionary proposals while the union argues for gains in a profitable climate.
Lewenza said the union's demands are based on the membership's suggestions.
"Our proposals vary from obtaining all of the sacrifices that we lost - to bring them back - to more modest proposals on improvements in physiotherapy, as an example, or an improvement in wages," he said.
The automakers prefer a profit-sharing formula rather than annual wage hikes. Lewenza said it's "up for debate."
"But our position is we're not in favour of profit-sharing," he said. "But maybe there's another mechanism that we can collectively come up with in the next five weeks to provide some compensation support as a result of the success of the corporation."
GM said in June it planned to close one of its two Oshawa, ON, lines by June 2013.
The line employs about 2,000 workers.