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TORONTO (Reuters) - The main union representing Canada's autoworkers has made no progress in getting a commitment for fresh production from General Motors Co, but the union president said on Thursday there is still time in contract talks to hammer out a deal.
Unifor, which represents more than 20,000 autoworkers, will not extend a strike deadline set for midnight Sept. 19, said National President Jerry Dias, adding that deals can come together quickly when "there's the stomach to do so."
The union's top priority is securing production of new vehicle models in Canada from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor and GM. GM was chosen as the union's strike target for the talks, with its deal setting a pattern for the other manufacturers.
"We still have a fair bit of time," Dias said in an interview. "If we haven't had any discussions yet about product on Monday, then we know that we're in the ditch and we'll be behaving as if we're getting ready to strike. So we're going to need some messaging before that."
Unofficial changes to the federal government's auto funding program, which an industry source told Reuters will offer grants instead of taxable loans, have not yet come up in talks, Dias said.
"We haven't gotten into those types of discussions yet with GM, about product. We raise it every day, but we haven't gotten anywhere," Dias said, adding that he had already met with the company three times today.
"But at some time, we're going to solidify the footprint here in Canada and then there's no question the switch to a grant system is going to help significantly."
GM Canada would not comment on Unifor's view that talks have not progressed on products.
Greg Moffatt, chairman of Unifor's master bargaining committee, said he was "a little disappointed" by the lack of progress.
At GM's Oshawa plant, one assembly line is scheduled to shut down in 2017 and another builds vehicles that sources have told Reuters will likely move. (reut.rs/2bRfZzc)
"We've been telling them for two and a half years that we needed to get product in our facilities," he said. "What they don't understand about that message is beyond me."
Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by David Gregorio