CAW, Chrysler reach deal

September 27, 2012 - All News

After a gruelling bargaining session that went into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the Canadian Auto Workers have reached a tentative contract agreement with Chrysler Canada, the last of the Detroit Three automakers that bargain together.
CAW national president Ken Lewenza confirmed the deal Wednesday evening to reporters at the Sheraton Centre ahead of a scheduled news conference.
The agreement, if ratified by Chrysler workers, will bring another four years of labour peace to the industry’s biggest automakers and its 21,000-member unionized Canadian workforce.
For Ontario, where all the manufacturing is based, it removes the threat of a strike that could have set back its fragile economic recovery.
The results of the negotiations prove that “if you stay united, if you stay focused, you can win justice,” Lewenza told reporters late Wednesday. “I think Chrysler is better positioned as a result of this agreement.”
Like Ford and General Motors, Chrysler has agreed to a formula that will see existing workers receive $9,000 worth of bonuses over the life of the contract, but no wage increase.
New hires will start at a lower wage — $20 an hour instead of $24 — and will take 10 years instead of six to reach the top rate, currently $34. They will also receive a weaker pension plan that combines the existing defined-benefit plan with a new defined-contribution plan.
At Ford and GM, the automakers agreed to create jobs to offset planning or existing layoffs, including 600 new jobs at Ford and 1,750 at GM.
At Chrysler, the deal preserves three shifts at its Windsor mini-van plant, the two shifts at the Brampton assembly plant, and the engine and office workers. In all, Chrysler employs about 8,000 CAW members.
The deals contain no new product or investment guarantees after 2016.
Ford workers have already voted 82 per cent in favour of the deal, while GM workers will finish voting Thursday. Dates for the Chrysler ratification vote have not yet been announced.
The agreement came after Chrysler submitted an economic proposal Tuesday evening that prompted an exchange of several proposals lasting through the night until 5 a.m. Wednesday.
Lewenza has previously said the deal is the best the union could negotiate in the present economic climate.
The automakers came into the talks saying they needed to cut their labour costs to be more competitive with other Detroit Three plants in North America. Canada’s rising dollar has wiped out some of its competitive advantage relative to some lower-cost U.S. jurisdictions.
But the CAW, whose members made concessions during the government bailout of the industry in 2008-09, said they deserved to share in the automakers’ success.
The union, Lewenza noted, successfully fought off the automakers’ demands for a permanent U.S.-style two-tier wage agreement and bonuses tied to company performance.
Industry experts said the deal with Chrysler took the longest to settle because it had more to gain from reaching a better deal. As the smallest of the three automakers, it has the biggest wage gap between its Canadian and U.S. workforce.
Earlier in the negotiation process, Chrysler complained about the CAW’s decision to settle with Ford first, thus setting a pattern the union expected the other two automakers to follow.
— Torstar News Service