Canadian workers accept sweeping cuts at Chrysler

Sun Apr 26, 2009 9:07pm EDT
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Auto Workers union said late on Sunday its members voted 87 percent in favor of a new collective agreement with Chrysler that will save the company about C$240 million ($198 million) annually.

The union made the steep concessions in order to try to help the besieged company qualify for billions of dollars in government aid in Canada and the United States and avoid liquidation.

"The reality is this was probably the most difficult and unprecedented time in the history of auto workers," CAW President Ken Lewenza told Reuters.

"We had probably the best turnout at meetings that I can recall in my career," he said. "So, you could sense the anxieties, but you also sense the mood that there will be a day, quite frankly, that we can turn a corner and make progress for our members again."

The deal cuts the overall labor cost of Chrysler's 8,000 unionized Canadian workers by about C$19 an hour.

"We are pleased that the men and women of the CAW have voted to ratify this contract," Al Iacobelli, Chrysler's chief bargainer and vice president of employee relations, said in a statement.

"We appreciate the hard work and dedication that they bring to the job each day."

Workers agreed to the elimination of their Christmas bonuses, their employee car-purchase program, tuition reimbursement, and semi-private hospital coverage, among other items.   Continued...