Chrysler near deal with Canadian union: Ontario

Thu Apr 23, 2009 5:15pm EDT
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - Concession talks between Chrysler and the Canadian Auto Workers union are making good headway and a deal aimed at helping the company stave off bankruptcy could be announced this week, an Ontario provincial government cabinet minister said on Thursday.

Chrysler and the CAW were back at the bargaining table on Thursday working on a cost-savings arrangement to help Chrysler meet an end-of-month deadline to qualify for billions of dollars in emergency aid from governments in Canada and the United States.

Chrysler has said it wants concessions from the union worth C$19 ($15.60) an hour so that it can compete with offshore-based automakers operating in Canada.

"I do believe that there was progress made over the past 24 hours that should give people hope about the future of Chrysler and about the ability of Chrysler to reorganize itself outside of a bankruptcy and continue to be a viable company," Ontario Economic Development Minister Michael Bryant told reporters.

He said there could be announcement on Thursday. If not, he said he was hopeful that a deal would be announced by the end of the week.

One of the CAW's lead negotiators with Chrysler said it was too soon to know if the union would be able to find common ground with Chrysler, but that it was pushing hard to get a deal done.

"We're getting there," Jerry Dias, an assistant to CAW President Ken Lewenza, told Reuters. "I mean it's too early to tell, but we're all running like hell trying to get it done."

A spokeswoman for Chrysler Canada said the company had no comment at this time. The company employs around 9,400 people in Canada, about 8,000 of whom are CAW members.   Continued...

<p>Canadian Auto Workers union president Ken Lewenza at a news conference in Toronto, March 27, 2009.REUTERS/Peter Jones</p>