Auto union says won't accept two-tier wages

Wed Mar 26, 2008 3:44pm EDT
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Auto Workers union will not accept a U.S.-style two-tier wage deal when it meets with the "Big Three" automakers this summer for contract negotiations, union President Buzz Hargrove said on Tuesday.

"We are not accepting second-class workers in our workplaces," Hargrove told reporters in Toronto.

"It's my last set of negotiations and my legacy is not going to be that the sons and daughters of current workers that were hired over 20 years ago are going to come in at the same rate in 2008 as their parents did in '86 or '87."

While the CAW indicated it would go on strike rather than accept the kind of two-level wage deal the United Auto Workers union accepted in the United States, the union did say it would seek ways to save the struggling Detroit-based automakers money, such as finding more efficient ways of delivering retirees' benefits.

The CAW is scheduled to start negotiations with Chrysler, Ford Motor Co and General Motors Corp in July. The union's current contract expires September 17.

Hargrove and CAW Economist Jim Stanford are in the midst of a "road show" making presentations to auto industry investors and analysts to try to play down expectations that the union will accept the kinds of concessions granted by the UAW last November.

The U.S. union will allow new workers to be hired at wages as low as $14 an hour, compared with a regular rate of $28 per hour, and it will help establish a massive healthcare trust fund to take over retiree health-care liabilities.

Hargrove said Canada's publicly funded healthcare system and a more productive workforce offset many of the gains made by automakers in the UAW deal.   Continued...

<p>Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) President Buzz Hargrove listens to a question while speaking with journalists in Ottawa November 2, 2007. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>