CAW chief says Chrysler contract deal possible Wednesday

Wed Sep 26, 2012 3:29pm EDT
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By Susan Taylor

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's auto workers could seal a new labor agreement with Chrysler Group LLC on Wednesday night, union President Ken Lewenza said, in a huge shift in the tone of the drawn-out negotiations.

Fiat SpA's Chrysler, the last of the Detroit Three automakers without a new contract in Canada, submitted a written proposal to the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union on Tuesday night that reignited what have been difficult talks, Lewenza said.

"I absolutely think it's possible," to reach a deal on Wednesday, Lewenza told Reuters after a morning meeting with the CAW's Chrysler negotiating team. "There's still some very, very minor issues around the pattern that have to be dealt with. We're going to keep working at it over the course of the day."

Ford Motor Co workers ratified a contract deal with the CAW at the weekend, while General Motors Co employees vote on Wednesday and Thursday.

"We are making good progress," said Todd Bested, head of labor relations for Chrysler Canada. "Chrysler did present an offer to the CAW, however I can't comment on the specifics of the discussions."

Chrysler has more than 8,000 unionized workers in Canada. Its Windsor, Ontario, assembly plant is the sole source for the company's minivans in North America, and its Brampton, Ontario, plant produces sedans. The company also has a casting plant in Toronto.

Chrysler's Local 444 union, which represents workers at the Windsor plant, announced an information and ratification meeting for September 30 on it website.

Lewenza declined to say how the two sides would resolve a Chrysler demand to eliminate a cost of living increase and adjust lump sum payments. They are key elements in the deals with Ford and GM.   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