Union, Chrysler Canada still at odds on labor deal

Fri Mar 27, 2009 3:27pm EDT
 
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - Chrysler and the Canadian Auto Workers union are still "far apart" in negotiations to reach a cost-saving deal to help the company qualify for government aid, the head of the union said on Friday.

CAW President Ken Lewenza said negotiations have been "very frustrating and at times confusing," because twice within the last 48 hours the two sides were very close to a tentative agreement, but both times it fell apart.

He said that in both cases Chrysler had "moved the goal posts" at the last minute.

"We were inches apart this morning and now we're potentially miles apart," Lewenza said, without elaborating on the issues dividing the two sides.

Chrysler said in a statement it needs to close a gap of C$19 an hour between workers in Canada and offshore-based companies in the United States.

"Although we made progress toward 'closing the gap', significant issues related to the existing 'pattern' remain on the table," the company said.

The CAW has insisted that Chrysler follow the pattern established by a labor agreement it reached with General Motors Corp earlier in the month.

GM said its new three-year contract will save it nearly C$1 billion ($809 million) in labor costs by freezing wages, shifting more health care costs to employees, cutting paid time off, and suspending or eliminating cost of living adjustments.   Continued...

 
<p>Canadian Auto Workers union president Ken Lewenza explains that Chrysler and the CAW union are still far apart in negotiations to reach a cost-saving deal to help the company qualify for government aid at a news conference in Toronto, March 27, 2009. REUTERS/Peter Jones</p>