Talks with Chrysler resume

The Canadian Auto Workers has urged its members at Chrysler to be patient as formal talks resumed Monday following a weekend pause of the main negotiating teams while the union ensured ratification of a deal with Ford.

“It’s crucial that members at all Chrysler locations stay on the job and continue working,” the union told its members in an update on negotiations.

“A failure to do so will have serious negative consequences on our ability to reach a new agreement and will greatly diminish the bargaining committee’s negotiating power.”

While the master bargaining committees suspended talks over the weekend, subcommittees continued to meet.

The union says it will give 24 hours notice of a strike if talks with Chrysler flounder. Employee tensions are high because company CEO Sergio Marchionne has been vocal about his desire for substantial contract changes and his opposition to pattern bargaining with rivals Ford and General Motors.

However, the union says the ratification by Ford workers by a margin of 82 per cent and a similar deal ironed out with General Motors provide the framework it will follow with Chrysler.

Industry observers say Chrysler has no choice but to accept the pattern four-year agreement since it can’t afford a strike. Canada accounts for about one quarter of its global production.

General Motors workers will vote on Wednesday and Thursday on a deal that was also reached last week.

The CAW bargaining committee told Chrysler workers that the Ford ratification allows the union to devote its full attention to getting a deal with the last remaining member of Detroit’s Big Three auto makers.

“We are in a much stronger position today, with one pattern agreement ratified and another on its way. We are more confident today that Chrysler can and will meet the pattern,” it said.

CAW president Ken Lewenza said last week that he was hopeful an agreement with Chrysler could be reached within a few days.

The agreement Ford workers accepted has no increases to wages or changes to pension plans for existing employees.

Each worker will get $2,000 a year in the second, third and fourth years to cover cost-of-living increases, plus a $3,000 ratification bonus.

Long-term care provisions are capped at $800 per month for new hires and the prescription drug plan is changed to reduce costs.

The deal will also result in roughly 600 jobs created at Ford’s assembly complex in Oakville, Ont.

A third shift will be added to the body, paint and pre-trim departments along with additional work that will create about 300 jobs. A new product will add more than 300 positions.

Ford’s Windsor operations will also receive additional machining work, generating about 35 new openings.

The manufacturer said significant cost-savings are realized through an “unprecedented compensation structure for new employees.”

These workers will earn $20 an hour, down from $24 an hour. It will take the new hires 10 years to reach the same wages as existing employees. They will also have to make contributions to their defined benefit pension plans.

“By becoming more competitive in our labour costs, we are better positioned to support the growth of the Canadian economy and to provide new job opportunities,” stated Stacey Allerton, Ford’s vice-president of human resources and lead labour negotiator.

She said retirement incentives will be offered to certain employee groups to allow laid-off employees to return to work.

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