By Peter Criscione
Special to Focus
The Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) is advising local Chrysler workers to prepare to strike with just nine days to go before the current contract with their employer ends.
“Things are moving a little slow with negotiations,” said Leon Rideout, president of CAW Local 1285, the union that represents Chrysler workers in Brampton. “We are preparing our members just in case we don’t get an agreement. You’ve got to prepare for the worst and expect the best.”
The current contracts expire on Sept. 17.
In anticipation of that date, Chrysler workers in Brampton are being asked to form strike committees and start preparations for labour action.
The CAW, which represents 20,600 General Motors, Ford and Chrysler workers, was given a strong strike mandate by its members last week.
Chrysler workers in Brampton overwhelmingly supported strike action (98.8 per cent) in a vote held on Aug. 26.
The CAW is looking to regain some of the concessions its members made in 2009 when they reopened their collective agreements as part of government bailouts that helped GM and Chrysler stay in business.
The automakers have since returned to profitability and union members say they want to share in that success.
But all three automakers have said they need to lower their Canadian costs in order to remain competitive.
According to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., Canadian labour costs are between $2.50 and $10 an hour higher than in U.S. auto plants.
The difference depends on the automakers being compared and whether legacy costs, such as retirees’ benefits, are included in the calculation.
The rise in the Canadian dollar doesn’t help, making both labour and capital investment in new plants appear more expensive relative to other markets.
Chrysler employs 3,500 assembly workers at its Brampton Assembly Plant, as well as 4,500 workers in Windsor and 300 in Etobicoke.
With the contract expiry approaching fast, the union says it’s seeing little progress in any of the talks.
“They (the company) are asking for more concessions even though they are back to making money,” Rideout said. “We’re not going in there to break the company. We don’t want see them go back into bankruptcy.
“Our goal is not to strike, our goal is to get a collective agreement. Our number one priority is investment for Brampton.”
— With files from Metroland News Service
By Peter Criscione