Canada union invites Fiat to Chrysler talks Monday

Wed Apr 15, 2009 4:05pm EDT
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Auto Workers union said on Wednesday that stalled labor talks with Chrysler will resume on Monday and that Fiat SpA's chief executive, who has been critical of the union, would be invited to the table.

Chrysler has until the end of the month to forge an alliance with Fiat to qualify for long-term U.S. and Canadian government aid. The Italian automaker has said such a deal hinges on Chrysler securing concessions from its unions in Canada and the United States.

Fiat's chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, said in an interview with the Globe and Mail newspaper on Wednesday that a deal on the partnership had only a 50-50 chance of succeeding because of a lack of progress in talks between the floundering Detroit automaker and union leaders.

Marchionne, who holds dual Italian and Canadian citizenship, said the unions would have to agree to match the lower labor costs of plants run by Japanese and German automakers in the United States and Canada, adding that Canadian unions were especially resistant to the idea.

CAW President Ken Lewenza told reporters on Monday that he was surprised to read Marchionne's comments.

Lewenza said negotiations between the union and Chrysler, which have been stalled since the beginning of the month, would resume next week, and that Marchionne would be welcome to join them.

"We are going to bargaining on Monday," he said. "I can tell you that I will personally invite Sergio, if in fact he's the guy now calling the shots at (Chrysler), to listen to our bargaining committee and listen to the excellent reasons to invest in Canada."

Lewenza said that the cost of labor by the union's members added up to a total of 7 percent of the cost of a new vehicle.   Continued...

<p>Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union president Ken Lewenza speaks to the media in Toronto March 30, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>