CAW says it may strike all 3 Detroit automakers at once

Wed Sep 5, 2012 12:06pm EDT
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By Allison Martell and Nicole Mordant

TORONTO (Reuters) - The union that represents workers at the Detroit automakers in Canada said on Wednesday it could strike at all three companies simultaneously for the first time in its history if it does not see more progress in contract talks.

The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) said strike committees will be formed by local unions at Ford of Canada, General Motors of Canada and Chrysler Canada this week, ahead of the union's strike deadline of 11:59 p.m. eastern on September 17 (0359 GMT, September 18).

"It is our hope and intention to reach an agreement with at least one of the three companies before the deadline," the union said in a leaflet distributed to members. "We must be prepared, though, to shut down operations at all three, should we be unable to reach an agreement."

The union, which represents around 20,000 workers at the Detroit Three, typically picks a lead company to focus on in contract talks, setting a pattern that the other two automakers would be expected to follow. In the past, strikes have occurred more frequently at the target company.

But the CAW said last week that it could break with tradition and continue talks with all three automakers simultaneously.

The CAW's threat of a triple strike was "highly unusual", said Art Schwartz," a labor consultant and former GM labor negotiator based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Striking against one target puts particular pressure on that company because its competitors keep operating, Schwartz said.

"The fact that they're forming a strike committee at all three, all it does is give them maximum flexibility," he said. "They could strike everybody, but it doesn't mean they're going to."   Continued...