* Union says automakers demanding deep pension, benefit cuts
* Says Detroit 3 refuse to commit to production investments
* "No intention" of making deep cuts, CAW says
* Union may be willing to extend "earn-in", source
By Susan Taylor
TORONTO, Sept 10 The Canadian Auto Workers union
said on Monday it is facing "unprecedented demands" in contract
talks with the Detroit Three automakers and, with one week until
its agreements with them expire, has no intention of making deep
The CAW has warned that it could strike Chrysler,
Ford and General Motors simultaneously if it cannot
reach a new contract deal with at least one of them before all
of the contracts expire at 11:59 p.m. eastern on Sept. 17 (0359
GMT, Sept. 18).
The union said in a bulletin to members that the companies
are demanding that both current and future workers move to a
defined contribution pension plan from a defined benefit plan
and are also demanding the elimination of a clause allowing
workers with 30 years' experience to retire with a full pension.
As well, the automakers want to create a two-tier workforce,
the leaflet said, mirroring a concession they preserved in
contracts with the United Auto Workers union in the United
States last year.
The union may be willing to extend its "earn-in", the time
it takes new hires to reach the highest end of the pay scale,
from six to as many as 10 years, a union source close to the
talks said. But the CAW has said repeatedly that permanently
dividing workers into two wage classes is a non-starter.
The companies are also seeking the permanent elimination of
cost-of-living adjustments and further reduction in benefits,
such as prescription drug access, the union said.
It said the automakers are refusing to commit to any new
production investments in Canada and that they are insisting
that any reward or bonus that workers receive be balanced by
"CONSTRUCTIVE" DIALOGUE CONTINUES
GM said it continues to have an open and constructive
dialogue with the CAW and is optimistic that negotiations can
A Ford spokeswoman said negotiations are ongoing and the
company remains open to discussing any proposal that will
improve labor cost competitiveness.
"We are continuing to have constructive dialogue with our
CAW partners in an effort to secure long-term employment in
Canada as we have in the past," said a Chrysler source close to
"Numerous alternatives are being discussed that would
minimize the impact on current employees while establishing new
opportunities for future employees."
Strike captains at the union, which represents about 20,000
members at the three companies, met in Toronto on Monday to
advance plans for a triple strike.
"All three bargaining committees are determined to reject
these demands and reach a fair deal," the CAW said in the
"The union recognizes the fragility of the industry and the
need to stabilize fixed costs, while finding a solution rewards
members' work. Unfortunately, our efforts have not been met with
equal willingness by the companies to negotiate fair terms," the
The automakers say that Canada is the most expensive county
in the world in which to manufacture vehicles and that costs
must come down. The union argues that its members made major
concessions in their last contracts, when the industry was
reeling from recession, and that they now deserve to share in
the industry's turnaround.