With the CAW’s strike deadline set for 11:59 P.M tonight, the union will apparently focus on Ford as the target for a collective agreement, while also remaining in talks with Chrysler and General Motors.
A failure to get a deal would result in a strike at the Canadian plants of all three auto makers, an unprecedented move by the CAW. Normally, only one auto maker is targeted.
The Globe and Mail newspaper reported that
“Sources said Ford had been the most flexible company all along – including on the key question of a time limit on lower starting wages for new employees – even as it insisted that its hourly labour costs in Canada match those at its U.S. operations. Ford “have clearly told us they want a deal in Canada that recognizes that Canada is a good place to invest,” CAW president Ken Lewenza said Sunday. “I’ve told General Motors and Chrysler that they better show a desire to get a collective agreement before the deadline because our strategy is to withdraw our labour where we don’t have a deal.”
Meanwhile, Chrysler criticized Ford’s Canadian cutbacks (which led to the demise of the St. Thomas, Ontario plant, and the beloved Crown Victoria). A statement by Chrysler noted that “While we respect Ford as a competitor, we do not think they are in the best position to take on this role given the significant reduction in their Canada footprint in recent years.”
While Chrysler and GM are insisting on a permanent two-tier wage system similar to the UAW, Ford is apparently more felixble with this demand, something that CAW President Ken Lewenza said is unacceptable to the union.
For the CAW, a deal with Ford could mean a third shift at the Oakville assembly plant, as well as significant investment for a new global vehicle. There are currently 1,200 laid off workers from the St. Thomas plant that are looking for jobs, and delivering both the agreement and new jobs for its members might be just the kind of victory that Lewenza needs to make the bitter pill of concessions go down easier.