Union, Chrysler say deal might happen tonight

The Canadian Auto Workers and Chrysler say they are close to reaching a deal that would see the union successfully renew labour contracts at the Big Three automakers without resorting to a strike.

The chairman of the CAW master bargaining committee for Chrysler said the two sides made significant progress over the last 24 hours.

“I think we’re closer and closer by every minute and every hour and again we’re just working at this closing up those loose ends,” Dino Chiodo said Wednesday in an interview from Toronto.

“Unless things completely fall off the rails, which I don’t see happening at this point, I think we’re moving along very well and I’m confident that sometime today or tomorrow we’ll be able to achieve the final task of wrapping this up.”

Chiodo said he continues to meet with Chrysler officials to iron out some issues even though other members of the bargaining team — including president Ken Lewenza — are participating in General Motors ratification meetings.

Workers vote on that contract Wednesday and Thursday in Oshawa, St. Catharines and Woodstock, Ont.

The full bargaining team isn’t scheduled to meet face-to-face until after 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Chrysler submitted an economic proposal Tuesday evening that prompted an exchange of several proposals throughout the night until 5 a.m.

“I can’t really predict when the deal will take place,” said company spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin. “(But) talks are progressing well.”

Chrysler is most concerned about being bound to a framework agreement established by Ford and General Motors that pays lump sum payments over four years in lieu of wage increases.

Ford workers accepted their agreement by a margin of 82 per cent, a deal that included no wage increases or changes to pension plans for existing employees.

However, 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 have been capped at $800 per month for new hires and the prescription drug plan has been changed to reduce costs.

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