Canadian union nears GM, Chrysler contract deals

Wed May 14, 2008 11:39pm EDT
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By Kevin Krolicki

DETROIT (Reuters) - The Canadian Auto Workers union expects to reach contract deals with General Motors Corp (GM.N: Quote) and Chrysler LLC by Thursday after extending talks overnight, CAW President Buzz Hargrove said late on Wednesday.

The CAW had set an initial deadline of Wednesday evening to reach contracts with the two Detroit-based automakers that would follow the pattern it established in a now-ratified three-year contract with Ford Motor Co.(F.N: Quote)

Hargrove, speaking to reporters on a conference call, said a "handful" of contract issues still divided the Canadian union and Chrysler and GM, but he repeated that the CAW would not accept a two-tier wage system for workers at either company.

"We've moved the envelope pretty well at both tables," Hargrove said, adding "We're very proud of the fact that we're close with GM and Chrysler."

Hargrove said the CAW, Canada's largest private sector union, was pushing for both automakers to commit to future product investment in their Canadian facilities under the new contracts, a provision the union won from Ford.

In one sign of progress, Hargrove said the CAW and GM had reached agreement on the terms of buyout and early retirement offers that would be given to some 1,200 union-represented workers at a Windsor, Ontario transmission plant GM plans to close in 2010.

GM announced plans to close that 45-year-old plant on Monday, a decision that Hargrove said had come as a shock, although union leaders have also said they believe dwindling market share left GM with no other choice.

"We've put together a close-out plan," said Hargrove, who spoke to reporters from a Toronto hotel. "That's done."   Continued...