Canada's CAW chooses Ford for talks as strike looms

Sun Sep 16, 2012 7:38pm EDT
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By Allison Martell and Nicole Mordant

TORONTO/VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A day before a strike deadline at Detroit's "Big Three" automakers, the Canadian Auto Workers chose Ford Motor Co as the lead company for contract talks, saying the union believes it has the best chance of reaching a deal with Ford and averting a damaging work stoppage.

The CAW will, however, continue to have talks with the other two Detroit car companies, Fiat SpA's Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors, as well.

"We're going to concentrate our efforts on Ford. We hope to get a reasonable deal. We hope to get a modest deal," said CAW President Ken Lewenza.

If an agreement is reached in time with Ford, Chrysler and GM would have to give a "firm commitment" before the deadline that they could "live with the framework" of such a deal if they want to avoid strikes at their operations, Lewenza added.

"But if they say to us that the collective agreement ain't gonna fly here, then why would we hold off?" he said at a press conference at a hotel in downtown Toronto where the contract talks have taken place for the past month.

The deadline for an unprecedented simultaneous strike at all three automakers by the CAW's approximately 20,000 members is 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday (3.59 a.m. GMT, Tuesday).

A strike at all three companies would result in lost production of about C$200 million ($206.50 million) a day at the companies and their suppliers, according to the CAW.

It would also cut off production of parts exported to U.S. auto plants, as well as assembled vehicles destined for the U.S. market. More than 80 percent of the Detroit Three's output of around 1.5 million vehicles a year is exported, mainly to the United States.   Continued...

Ken Lewenza, national president of CAW (Canadian Auto Workers), discusses contract negotiations with General Motors following a meeting between the two, in Toronto, August 14, 2012. REUTERS/Brett Gundlock