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Fri, Sep 16, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Canadian Auto Workers union set on going on strike

AP , TORONTO

The Canadian Auto Workers union will strike against Daimler-Chrysler, where up to 2,500 jobs were at risk, if no deal is reached by next Tuesday, union leader Buzz Hargrove said on Wednesday.

"I'm not very optimistic at this point," Hargrove said in an interview after announcing that DaimlerChrysler was the next target in this year's auto contract talks. "The big thing is the demand on jobs that they have, on outsourcing our jobs ... to anywhere in the world that can do it cheaper."

The latest negotiations come after the autoworkers signed a deal with Ford Canada on Monday, a grim agreement that will see 1,100 fewer jobs in Ontario and the shutdown of one Ford factory by the end of a three-year labor contract.

Outsourcing is a major issue between the union and DaimlerChrysler, which wants to spin off some of its Canadian production to save costs in an increasingly competitive North American auto industry. DaimlerChrysler operates assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton, northwest of Toronto, as well as parts plants in Windsor.

Hargrove said that in addition to outsourcing, some of the potential job losses would come from DaimlerChrysler's desire to copy Toyota Motor Corp's production method, known as kaizen, or continuous improvement.

"It's a structural change, a cultural change," CAW chairperson Ken Lewenza said. "They would like to introduce the Toyota process of building products, which is in smaller teams, empower the workers, supposedly give the workers more responsibility to make decisions."

"We're very nervous about it," Lewenza said. "We're not worried about cultural shifts. We're worried about jobs."

Union leaders pegged potential job losses at about 1,500 in Windsor, about 700 in Brampton, Ontario, and more than 400 at the operations in Etobicoke, also in Ontario, which the union said DaimlerChrysler wants to close.

In a statement released on Wednesday, DC Canada vice president Mark Gendregske said that despite a lot of work ahead, "we are optimistic we can find common ground."

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