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Mon, Mar 30, 2009 - Page 10 News List

Canadian union, Chrysler negotiating on pay-gap issues

AP , DETROIT, MICHIGAN

Although the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union is still negotiating with Chrysler LLC to meet a deadline tomorrow, a major sticking point remains on the table, the union’s president said.

In an interview, CAW National President Ken Lewenza, said that “high-level meetings” and phone discussions were going on this weekend, as both sides negotiate modifications to a current contract.

Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler needs to cut labor costs in Canada, as the company seeks aid from the government there. The company must reach a deal by tomorrow to qualify for a US$2.3 billion loan it requested last year.

Chrysler chief bargainer Al Iacobelli said in a statement that the company was trying to close a pay gap of C$19 (US$15.36) per hour, to bring its costs in line with other automakers in Canada.

However, Lewenza said that fully closing that gap was “unachievable.”

“We’re not working off some C$19 figure,” he said, adding that the union was looking to pattern a deal with Chrysler after the one it struck with General Motors Corp (GM) workers in Canada earlier this month.

Iacabelli said that given the “unprecedented times” facing Chrysler, the union should “break pattern,” meaning it should not seek to fashion an agreement with Chrysler after GM’s.

Chrysler is looking for a deal that goes beyond the wage freezes, bonus elimination, reduced vacation time and other concessions GM workers agreed to, which goes against the union’s desires, Lewenza said.

Lewenza said that even if an agreement were reached soon, it would take until next weekend to have all the members ratify it.

“We haven’t been told any differently,” Lewenza said regarding the deadline.

“The Canadian government said the CAW agreement had to be bargained and ratified by March 31. We still have three days to do it,” he said.

Chrysler is in a similar position in the US as it seeks billions more on top of a US$4 billion loan doled out in January.

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