Monday, May 19, 2008

Canadian Auto Workers ratify new deal

Charmaine Noronha / Associated Press

TORONTO — Canadian Auto Workers at Chrysler ratified a new labor agreement Saturday, wrapping up this year’s round of negotiations between the CAW and other major automakers Ford and General Motors.

CAW members at Chrysler’s three Ontario-based plants voted 87 percent in favor of the new agreement Saturday, making it the strongest approval rating among the three giant auto companies. General Motors workers voted 84 percent in favor of its new agreement earlier Saturday, and Ford workers voted 67 percent in support of its new contract two weeks ago.

CAW President Buzz Hargrove said that the strong approval rating by the membership is evidence that the union did the right thing in negotiating an early settlement.

"I have no doubt in my mind that going into early bargaining with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler was the best thing for our members," said Hargrove in a statement Saturday.

"With the new product commitments contained in the agreement, our members will be better equipped to weather the economic storm currently devastating the auto industry."

The Chrysler agreement, which closely follows an agreement reached with Ford two weeks earlier, includes a commitment to launch the new C-series vehicles in 2010 at its Brampton, Ontario, plant. The new agreement also confirms that the Windsor, Ontario, plant will continue to be the lead producer of minivans in North America.

Chrysler also agreed to keep the Etobicoke Casting plant open in Ontario until June 2011, with the intention of selling the plant or making it into a joint venture. Chrysler had threatened to close the plant.

As with an agreement ironed out with Ford two weeks ago, the union said the three-year deal keeps the automaker’s labor costs essentially the same as they are now, preventing a two-tier wage system used in the United States where new hires would be paid about half the hourly wages of older employees.

The agreement also includes cost of living wage adjustments in the second and third years of the agreement and improved benefits for the 8,000 Chrysler workers in Ontario.

A telephone call seeking comment from Chrysler about the ratification Saturday was not immediately returned.

The union reached historically early tentative agreements with both General Motors and Chrysler on Thursday, more than four months before the contract expiration.

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