CAW, Chrysler "incredibly far apart" in talks: union

Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:22pm EDT
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By Susan Taylor

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Auto Workers union and Chrysler Group LLC are far apart in talks for a new contract, with Chrysler wanting to eliminate a cost-of-living increase and adjust lump-sum payments the CAW negotiated in contract deals with General Motors and Ford last week, the head of the union said on Tuesday.

Chrysler, part of Italy's Fiat SpA group, is the last of the Detroit 3 automakers without a contract deal in Canada. Ford Motor Co workers ratified their deal last weekend, and General Motors Co employees will vote on Wednesday and Thursday.

"We're still incredibly far apart," CAW President Ken Lewenza said after a morning meeting of the union's Chrysler caucus. "It is a tug of war, quite frankly."

The union, which represents more than 20,000 workers at the Canadian units of the Detroit 3 automakers, said late in the afternoon that it had not yet received a formal economic proposal from Chrysler.

Chrysler, which has more than 8,000 unionized workers in Ontario, declined to comment.

The union said Chrysler wants to remove a cost-of-living increase set for the final year of the Ford/GM framework deal, and forgo an hourly pay increase of 33 Canadian cents introduced in the last quarter of the current contract.

"The proposal from Chrysler, and from the other companies, was just to stop paying that 33 cents. That represents a cut in everyone's wage," said CAW economist Jim Stanford. GM and Ford had the same demand when they started talks, he said, but later dropped it.

Chrysler also wants flexibility over the timing and structure of C$9,000 ($9,200) in lump-sum bonus payments, the CAW said.   Continued...