CAW agrees to concessions in GM deal

Sun Mar 8, 2009 9:20pm EDT
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By Janet Guttsman

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian autoworkers will face a wage freeze through 2012, along with shorter vacations and higher contributions to benefit plans under a tentative deal with General Motors Canada, the Canadian Autoworkers Union said on Sunday.

The deal, seen as a pattern for pacts with other auto companies, aims to unlock billions of dollars in Canadian government funding for General Motors. Unionized workers will vote on the pact on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

"The alternatives are much worse," CAW President Ken Lewenza told a news conference announcing the agreement, which was reached after round-the-clock negotiations with the company, which has some 10,000 workers represented by the CAW. "We've done what we can do as a union... Now the Canadian government has got to step up to the plate."

The Canadian units of GM and Chrysler are seeking as much as C$10 billion from the Canadian and Ontario governments to help them survive the crisis facing the auto sector.

The payments hinge on the companies making savings that will include concessions from unionized workers. But federal Industry Minister Tony Clement gave no clue as to whether the tentative deal would be enough to unlock government funds.

"My officials and I continue to work closely with GM as we continue our due diligence," he said in a statement.

"We will ensure that there is a viable long-term sustainability plan involving all stakeholders in place before we commit any taxpayer dollars."

GM has already proposed a 10 percent cut in executive salaries, and reduced pay and benefits for salaried employees.   Continued...

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