* Union offers longer "earn-in," lower starting wage
* May relax 30-and-out provision on pensions for new hires
* Analyst says concessions not surprising
* Workers could strike all three automakers at once
* Senior Chrysler, Ford officials to join talks
By Allison Martell and Nicole Mordant
TORONTO/VANCOUVER, Sept 13 Four days before its
strike deadline, the Canadian Auto Workers union has offered the
three Detroit automakers concessions on wages and pensions for
new hires, yielding ground that should not upset existing
CAW National Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy said the
union has proposed a lower starting wage for new hires, and a
longer "earn-in," the time it takes to reach the top of the pay
The union has also presented a new pension proposal for new
hires at Chrysler, Ford Motor Co and General
Motors Co. New workers would contribute to their pensions
- current employees do not - but would still be entitled to a
defined-benefit, not a defined-contribution pension.
Also on pensions, Kennedy said the union could relax the
"30-and-out" provision for new hires. Instead of being allowed
to retire after 30 years with full pension under any
circumstances, they would be able to retire after 30 years only
if they were above a set age.
Tony Faria, a University of Windsor professor and auto
industry expert, said he was not surprised that the CAW had
chosen to make concessions on new-employee pay and benefits.
"I thought that was an area where the CAW certainly could do
something, as with the new hire they are not taking anything
away from the existing worker, who has to vote on ratifying the
Faria said he was glad the CAW had put the concessions on
the table. If it hadn't "there was no hope for this contract
being settled," he said.
Earlier on Thursday, CAW President Ken Lewenza said in an
interview that the talks with the Detroit Three were "terrible".
But he added that "the world could change in four days".
Under the starting wage concession, new workers would still
reach the same pay level as existing employees eventually. The
CAW has refused to consider a permanent two-tier wage system,
arguing that employees doing the same work should eventually be
paid the same amount.
"The important thing is that over time they would grow into
the prevailing rate, so that we wouldn't have a permanent
two-tier system," Kennedy said.
On Monday, a union source close to the talks said it might
be possible to extend the earn-in from the current six years to
as long as 10 years. Kennedy said he did not want to talk
The CAW has threatened an unprecedented simultaneous strike
at all three automakers if it does not reach a contract
agreement with at least one company by the union's strike
deadline of 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Sept. 17 (0359 GMT, Sept.
"We continue to have an open and constructive dialogue with
our CAW partners," GM spokeswoman Faye Roberts said in an email.
"We are optimistic that we can continue to work together to
overcome challenges, find creative solutions and improve our
A Chrysler spokeswoman declined to comment on the
developments, and Ford did not respond to a request for comment.
The automakers want the CAW to accept the same type of deals
they reached in the United States last year with the United Auto
Workers, Lewenza said last week.
The UAW contracts had no wage increases and preserved a
two-tier system. They also included signing bonuses and
profit-sharing. The latter has not been offered to the CAW,
With talks heading down to the wire, Kennedy said senior
officials from Chrysler and Ford would join the negotiations on
Thursday. He said GM already has a senior U.S. official at the
"It's a sign that folks are taking this seriously," Kennedy
said. "There's a lot of experience around all of the bargaining
tables and if we can get behind the concepts we can get this