UPDATE 1-Union wants higher pay as Canadian auto talks begin

Wed Aug 10, 2016 5:35pm EDT
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(Adds figures for auto sector job losses in Canada, remarks from union press conference)

By Allison Martell and Allison Lampert

TORONTO/MONTREAL Aug 10 (Reuters) - The union representing most Canadian autoworkers is seeking higher pay for members as it starts contract negotiations with three major automakers this week for a deal that its president said would make or break the country's auto industry.

"We are expecting some increases for our members who absolutely deserve it," Unifor President Jerry Dias told reporters in Toronto following his first meeting with General Motors Co on Wednesday.

Unifor, the country's largest private-sector union, will not make specific demands on salaries and pensions this week.

The talks will cover 20,350 Canadian autoworkers at GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Co. The union's four-year contract expires Sept. 19, putting the two sides in a position to strike or lock out workers.

Dias said the union won't agree to a deal unless GM commits to building new vehicles in Oshawa and Ford decides to keep its engine plant operating in Windsor.

GM's Oshawa plant could shut one of its two assembly lines, with several vehicles already produced elsewhere or expected to move in 2017.

Between 2001 and 2013, some 14,300 jobs were lost in vehicle manufacturing in Canada, according to Hamilton's Automotive Policy Research Centre. Some automakers have found cheaper labor in places such as the southern United States and Mexico.   Continued...