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Published: Tuesday, 9/18/2012

CAW, Ford agree on tentative deal

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ken Lewenza, second right, president of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), arrives with members of the negotiating committee at a news conference in Toronto. Ken Lewenza, second right, president of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), arrives with members of the negotiating committee at a news conference in Toronto.
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TORONTO — The Canadian Auto Workers union said Monday it had reached a tentative deal with Ford Motor Co.

CAW President Ken Lewenza said his organization expects Ford’s four-year deal to serve as a template for deals with General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.

“If they say it is unacceptable we will have no choice [but] to withdraw our labor,” Mr. Lewenza said.

The deadline for agreements with the three companies was midnight. Mr. Lewenza said the deadlines would be extended if there was “light at the end of the tunnel.”

The union earlier told its members it was optimistic strikes can be averted after the CAW decided to focus on talks with Ford, who they say recognizes that the union won’t accept a permanent two-tier wage structure.

The CAW represents about 21,000 auto workers in Canada and about 16 percent of auto production in North America. The CAW has about 4,500 workers at Ford, 8,000 workers at GM, and another 8,000 at Chrysler. The Ford agreement will see another 8,000 at Chrysler.

The Ford agreement will see 800 laid off Ford employees get back to work, partially through the creation of 600 new jobs at its Canadian operations. There are no base wage increases during the life of agreement, which lasts until September, 2016, but each employee will receive a $2,000 lump sum payment that will cover cost of living increases.

Mr. Lewenza said Ford workers will vote on the deal this weekend.

If Chrysler refuses to go along with a Ford-CAW deal, that could mean trouble, says Art Schwartz, a former General Motors negotiator who now runs a labor consulting business in Ann Arbor.

“I think the CAW is fully prepared to strike if they get a deal with one company and another decides to change it radically,” he said.

Chrysler earlier took issue with the CAW focusing their efforts on Ford, saying Ford doesn’t have as large a footprint in Canada as Chrysler and GM do.

The auto companies say Canada is the most expensive place in the world to make cars and trucks. Wages are a key issue in the talks and the union is proposing that new employees earn less only when they are first hired and then take longer to reach the top end of the wage scale.

The au tomakers have been pushing for a permanent wage reduction for new employees, similar to a deal the companies reached in the United States.



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