Canada autoworkers, Detroit Three still miles apart

Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:22pm EDT
 
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By Allison Martell and Bernie Woodall

OSHAWA, Ontario/DETROIT (Reuters) - Just three days before a strike deadline, the Canadian Auto Workers and the three Detroit automakers were far apart on major contract issues, with Chrysler Group's chief executive telling workers to temper their expectations and plant organizers preparing for a walkout.

Talks between the union and Fiat SpA's Chrysler Group LLC FIA.MI, General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) and Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) continued around the clock as time ticked down to the union's strike deadline of 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday (0359 GMT, Tuesday).

CAW National President Ken Lewenza said the companies had rejected the union's proposed concessions on wages for new hires, insisting on permanently lower wages for new employees, something Lewenza called a "no-go."

"We can be flexible on wage progression," said Lewenza in an interview with Reuters. "But it can't be a long-term, permanent two-tier system, and they reject that outright."

The CAW had proposed cutting starting wages below the roughly C$24 ($25) an hour currently offered and extending the "earn-in," the time it takes new employees to reach the top of the pay scale.

The Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers in the United States have used a two-tier wage scale for the past several years to bring labor costs closer to those of foreign automakers. But the CAW is adamant that unlike UAW members, its new workers eventually reach the same pay as existing employees.

The CAW, which represents some 20,000 workers at the Detroit Three, has threatened an unprecedented simultaneous strike at all three automakers if it fails to reach a contract agreement with at least one of them before the deadline.

Lewenza said he is frustrated but still "hopeful" that he will have a deal by the deadline.   Continued...