* Strike committees to be set up across companies
* CAW has never struck the three automakers at the same time
* CAW says automakers bent on cutting costs in contracts
By Allison Martell and Nicole Mordant
TORONTO, Sept 5 The union that represents
workers at the Detroit automakers in Canada said on Wednesday it
could strike at all three companies simultaneously for the first
time in its history if it does not see more progress in contract
The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) said strike committees will
be formed by local unions at Ford of Canada, General
Motors of Canada and Chrysler Canada this week,
ahead of the union's strike deadline of 11:59 p.m. eastern on
Sept. 17 (0359 GMT, Sept. 18).
"It is our hope and intention to reach an agreement with at
least one of the three companies before the deadline," the union
said in a leaflet distributed to members. "We must be prepared,
though, to shut down operations at all three, should we be
unable to reach an agreement."
The union, which represents around 20,000 workers at the
Detroit Three, typically picks a lead company to focus on in
contract talks, setting a pattern that the other two automakers
would be expected to follow. In the past, strikes have occurred
more frequently at the target company.
But the CAW said last week that it could break with
tradition and continue talks with all three automakers
The CAW's threat of a triple strike was "highly unusual",
said Art Schwartz," a labor consultant and former GM labor
negotiator based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Striking against one target puts particular pressure on that
company because its competitors keep operating, Schwartz said.
"The fact that they're forming a strike committee at all
three, all it does is give them maximum flexibility," he said.
"They could strike everybody, but it doesn't mean they're going
The last strike at Detroit Three operations in Canada
occurred in 1996 when GM workers walked off the job for three
Ford of Canada remains "committed to working with the CAW"
and is confident of finding solutions "to improve the
competitiveness of the Canadian operations", spokeswoman Lauren
More said in an email.
Chrysler Canada declined to comment on the strike threat and
GM Canada could not be reached for comment immediately.
The CAW said in its leaflet that little progress had been
made in talks with the car companies and that all its bargaining
committees had bumped up against the same barrier.
"The corporations are refusing to add any costs whatsoever -
instead, they insist on cutting costs from our existing
agreements," the union said.
All three automakers have said repeatedly that Canada is now
the most expensive place in the world to produce cars. The union
argues that workers who helped keep the companies afloat during
the financial crisis should share in the rewards of their return
Gary Beck, chairman of the CAW's Ford master bargaining
committee, said the companies are asking for big concessions,
putting "far-fetched" offers on the table.
"We have been sitting down with all three companies, and no
one has taken the initiative to lead," he said. "This will,
hopefully, wake them up."