TORONTO – It’s likely going to be a long weekend for both sides in the Canadian auto talks.
The Canadian Auto Workers warned Thursday may target more than one of the Big Three North American automakers if negotiations fall through.
It says talks have intensified in an effort to avoid a work stoppage when the current contracts run out at the end of Monday but there’s been no progress.
“Today we are without an agreement on all major issues,” the union said Friday in a message to its members at Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.
“Our committees are frustrated, but remain intent on finding a solution.”
CAW spokesman Peter Kennedy said Thursday a decision about who to target will be made closer to Monday night when the current contracts expire at 11:59 p.m..
“We urge members to stay on the job and stay tuned for further information and instruction. Your bargaining committees are working very hard, guided by our shared goal of winning the best agreement possible while minimizing the sacrifice to our members,” the union said in a message distributed Friday to the media.
The three automakers have taken a low-profile approach during the talks but industry observers have noted they’re looking for lower labour and pension costs in line with an agreement with the United Auto Workers in the United States.
The CAW, which is independent of the UAW, has historically been able to prove its members had an economic cost-advantage over their American counterparts but that leverage has dwindled or disappeared due to a Canadian dollar now worth more than the U.S. currency as well as contract concessions at the UAW.
The CAW has said it’s prepared to allow a plan that would see new employees earn less when they are hired and take longer to reach the top end of the wage scale.
CAW president Ken Lewenza has said the union opposes a permanent two-tier system — such as one accepted by the United Auto Workers union for employees at the automakers’ U.S. plants.
Kennedy described the talks as the most difficult he’s seen in more than 20 years, including the restructuring in 2009 to save GM and Chrysler from bankruptcy.