Union ratifies GM Canada deal, Chrysler wants more

Wed Mar 11, 2009 11:55pm EDT
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Auto Workers union said on Wednesday its members had agreed to contract concessions with General Motors of Canada to help the automaker qualify for government loans, but the president of rival Chrysler panned the deal.

The union said 87 percent of GM's 10,000 hourly Canadian workers voted to support the agreement, which will see wages frozen, more health care costs shifted to employees, paid time off cut, and cost of living adjustments suspended or eliminated.

It also will divert employee bonuses to cover retiree health care costs, and reduce expenses for union-sponsored programs.

But Chrysler President and Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda said the moves did not go far enough, and warned lawmakers his company could pull out of Canada without bigger labor concessions.

The union has said the GM agreement will cut several dollars an hour from active member costs and will result in "substantial" cost reductions on liabilities related to retired members.

"These changes are difficult for our members and retirees, but CAW members at GM agree that accepting these changes is the best choice under the circumstances," CAW President Ken Lewenza said in a statement.

"Our labor costs did not cause this global crisis, and labor concessions -- no matter how deep they go -- cannot solve that crisis," Lewenza said. "However, our members understand that the CAW must be part of the solution, and we have done that."

GM has plants in Oshawa, St. Catharines, Windsor and Woodstock, Ontario.   Continued...

<p>A General Motors logo is seen at a car dealership in Toronto December 12, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>