September 16, 2012 / 1:42 AM / in 6 years

CAW union says contract talks progressing with Ford

TORONTO (Reuters) - One day shy of a midnight strike deadline, the Canadian Auto Workers union said on Sunday negotiators were getting closer to a deal with Ford Motor Co, citing “positive movement” in some areas of the contract, although no issues had been resolved.

“I think Ford has been positive throughout the process. It’s been a good relationship,” Gary Beck, chairman of the union’s Ford master bargaining committee said. “At the beginning we had our struggles, but we’re getting closer and closer.”

Earlier on Sunday, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported that the union had said it was making progress with two of the Big Three Detroit automakers.

CAW National President Ken Lewenza did not identify the two companies, but said that talks with Fiat SpA’s Chrysler Group LLC were not advancing well, according to the report.

The CAW has said it will stage an unprecedented simultaneous strike at all three automakers unless there is a deal with at least one company.

The union is in marathon bargaining with Chrysler, Ford and General Motors Co ahead of a strike deadline of 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday (0359 GMT Tuesday).

“There hasn’t been a proposal to the Chrysler bargaining committee that provides any reason for hope at this particular time,” Lewenza said in the Globe report. He added that there was “light at the end of the tunnel” with the other two companies.

The union, which represents about 20,000 Detroit Three auto workers, will update the status of negotiations at a press conference at 4 p.m. EDT on Sunday.

Chrysler, GM and Ford told Reuters on Sunday that they had no comment on the talks.

The Big Three Detroit-based automakers have said Canada is the most expensive place in the world to build vehicles and labor costs must decrease to match their workers in the United States, or future production and investment will be put in question.

The companies have not said publicly how they propose to reduce expenses.

The union said the Detroit Three want to permanently eliminate the cost-of-living allowance, move current and new hires to a defined contribution pension plan from a defined benefit pension plan, and eliminate a provision that allows workers to retire after 30 years under any circumstances.

The CAW offered key concessions on wages and pensions for new hires on Thursday, yielding ground that may be easier to swallow for current union members who must ratify a new contract.

In return, the CAW wants automakers to commit to investing in Canadian plants and allocating new production, ensuring members’ job security.

Reporting By Susan Taylor and Allison Martell; Editing by Maureen Bavdek

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