CAW focuses on Ford in down-to-wire contract talks

Ken Lewenza, CAW National President in the green and CAW Oshawa President Chris Buckley at the Sheridan Centre on Queen in Toronto on Sun. Sept. 16, 2012.



TORONTO -- The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union said Sunday that it's focusing on contract negotiations with Ford because the car company has been most responsive in bargaining.

With a strike deadline of 11:59 p.m. Monday looming, union negotiators are hoping Chrysler and General Motors Canada will follow suit.

The tipping point that put Ford ahead of the other two was their "clear willingness to get a deal done," CAW national president Ken Lewenza told reporters at the downtown Sheraton Hotel.

"We've got a few hours to get a collective agreement before Sept. 17, so we are going to move the resources of the national office, all of our bargaining committees in support of the Ford bargaining committee."

The union, which represents 21,500 workers at the three companies, anticipates reaching a deal with Ford an hour prior to the strike deadline.

CAW negotiators are confident, but "bargaining is fluid and that confidence could be shaken an hour from now," Lewenza said.

In the meantime, the union's Chrysler and GM bargaining team will continue talking with management representatives from those companies as part of a pattern bargaining strategy.

However, Lewenza cautioned there could be a walkout at GM and Chrysler -- even if Ford and the union reach a deal.

"We're dealing with all three companies and we're saying if one of those companies, or two or three can't get a deal by tomorrow, then there is a possibility of a strike," he said. "That is the last tool in the bargaining toolbox."

Key issues include several cost-cutting proposals, including a new pay scale which would prevent newly hired workers from achieving the maximum pay senior employees now earn.

A two-tier wage system brings down morale and creates productivity problems, Lewenza said, adding he couldn't get into whether Ford has accepted the union's wage proposal.

"Bargaining is fluid and we still have multiple demands on the table as they do," he said. "To stick my neck out and say one particular issue is solved when it could shift in the next 48 hours wouldn't be fair."

The automakers argue Canada has become too expensive to build vehicles and have hinted at moving production south to save money.

There has been one significant strike in CAW history in 1996 with GM. There has not been a strike involving all three auto companies to date, Lewenza said.


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