September 23, 2009 / 6:26 PM / 8 years ago

Ford Canada labor talks continue, key issue not met

TORONTO (Reuters) - Cost-savings talks between Ford Motor Co’s Canadian subsidiary and the Canadian Auto Workers union continued on Wednesday, but the union said Ford had so far failed to address its key issue.

Some media reports said the negotiations had broken off, but both union and company officials denied this.

“We’re having some detailed back and forth and some exchange of views regarding costs, future investment plans and that sort of thing,” said Jim Stanford, the CAW’s economist.

Stanford said, however, that Ford has still not addressed the CAW’s main concern: that Ford guarantee a certain amount of its North American manufacturing footprint stay in Canada as General Motors Co and Chrysler did in deals reached with the CAW in the spring.

“Ford has not remotely addressed this issue of the footprint,” he said.

Chrysler said it would keep 20 percent of future North American production in Canada in return for union concessions that lowered its costs to around those of nonunionized Toyota and Honda plants in Canada.

GM guaranteed a Canadian manufacturing footprint of about 18 percent of its North American production.

The deals those companies struck with the union helped GM and Chrysler qualify for about C$14 billion ($13 billion) in loans from the governments of Canada and the province of Ontario to help them survive the sharp industry downturn.

Ford, which has not needed a government bailout in Canada or the United States, has about 13 percent of its North American production in Canada.

The CAW said that number will fall to 8 or 9 percent once Ford closes its St. Thomas, Ontario, plant in 2011, when the company ends production of the gas guzzling rear-wheel drive large sedans it makes there.

“A pattern is a pattern,” Stanford said. “Our half of the pattern is these cost savings. The other half of the pattern is the company saying in return for the cost savings, we’ll maintain our presence here.”

“But you can’t ask people to give up stuff and then see their jobs disappear anyway. Nobody would vote for that.”

Ford also said talks are continuing but declined to comment on the specific details of discussions.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the CAW to find additional costs savings in order to ensure the competitiveness of our manufacturing operations in Canada,” said spokeswoman Lauren More.

($1=$1.07 Canadian)

Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Peter Galloway

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