September 20, 2012 / 2:47 PM / 5 years ago

Canada CAW, GM still talking amid strike notice threat

3 Min Read

The General Motors logo is seen outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan in this file photograph taken August 25, 2009.Jeff Kowalsky/Files

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Auto Workers union said on Thursday it would be set to serve General Motors Co with 24-hour strike notice later in the day if ongoing negotiations could not make progress on several contract issues.

"We are still talking. I mean we have got some large issues that we have to overcome, so nothing's imminent," said Jerry Dias, assistant to the CAW National President Ken Lewenza.

Earlier in the day, Lewenza had warned that if the two sides could not "narrow the differences to a respectful conversation in the next hour or so", that he would call the union bargaining committee back and "get authorization to give strike notice".

"The company offered a proposal this morning, which did not meet the pattern established at Ford Motor Co," Lewenza said on the sidelines of meetings taking place between the CAW and automakers at a hotel in Toronto.

The union, which represents some 20,000 workers at the Detroit Three, had hoped for quick agreements with GM and Fiat SpA's Chrysler after reaching a tentative contract agreement with Ford Motor Co on Monday.

The Ford deal sets a framework for talks with GM and Chrysler in a process called pattern bargaining, a long-standing union strategy meant to ensure that no company has a labor cost advantage over the others.

GM disagreed with Lewenza's assessment. "Following extensive meetings and dialogue, General Motors of Canada has delivered a proposal to the CAW that meets pattern on all elements of the Ford agreement," company spokeswoman Adria Mackenzie said in an email.

Earlier in the week, the GM talks appeared to be making good progress although talks with Chrysler seemed to be lagging.

But Lewenza said GM's offer on Thursday fell short on employee security issues, as well as on a tow-tier wage system, under which new workers are paid at a lower initial rate than existing workers.

On the two-tier wage sticking point, Lewenza said the union wants to get rid of GM's supplementary workforce employees, known as SWEs. SWEs are temporary workers employed by GM at lower wages, usually at times of new product launches.

Meanwhile, at Chrysler, there were "good discussions, good dialogue," CAW Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy said on Thursday morning.

An unprecedented simultaneous strike at all three automakers was averted on Monday when the agreement was reached with Ford hours before a strike deadline. The union then promised to give 24 hours' notice before any strike, which it would call if talks were not making enough progress.

At GM, talks are complicated by the "consolidated line" at the company's Oshawa, Ontario, assembly plant is set to shut down in June 2013. The line employs about 2,000 workers, nearly a quarter of the CAW's workforce at GM.

Unionized workers at Ford's plants in Canada will vote on the tentative agreement this weekend.

Reporting by Allison Martell; Writing by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver.; Editing by Peter Galloway and Frank McGurty

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