As a strike looms, CAW offers concessions to Detroit 3

Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:26pm EDT
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By Allison Martell and Nicole Mordant

TORONTO/VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Four days before its strike deadline, the Canadian Auto Workers union has offered the three Detroit automakers concessions on wages and pensions for new hires, yielding ground that should not upset existing workers.

CAW National Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy said the union has proposed a lower starting wage for new hires, and a longer "earn-in," the time it takes to reach the top of the pay scale.

The union has also presented a new pension proposal for new hires at Chrysler FIA.MI, Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) and General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote). New workers would contribute to their pensions - current employees do not - but would still be entitled to a defined-benefit, not a defined-contribution pension.

Also on pensions, Kennedy said the union could relax the "30-and-out" provision for new hires. Instead of being allowed to retire after 30 years with full pension under any circumstances, they would be able to retire after 30 years only if they were above a set age.

Tony Faria, a University of Windsor professor and auto industry expert, said he was not surprised that the CAW had chosen to make concessions on new-employee pay and benefits.

"I thought that was an area where the CAW certainly could do something, as with the new hire they are not taking anything away from the existing worker, who has to vote on ratifying the contract."

Faria said he was glad the CAW had put the concessions on the table. If it hadn't "there was no hope for this contract being settled," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, CAW President Ken Lewenza said in an interview that the talks with the Detroit Three were "terrible". But he added that "the world could change in four days".   Continued...