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Canadian Auto Talks Hitting “Stretch Run”

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(credit: DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)

jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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  autos arrows plug v2 Canadian Auto Talks Hitting Stretch Run

TORONTO — (WWJ) Negotiators for the Canadian Auto Workers union are expected to spend the entire weekend trying to avert a strike threatened for 11:59 PM Monday.

“The Canadian Auto Workers have always been a little bit more adversarial,” says Kristin Dziczek, who follows labor issues for the Center for Auto Research.

While both sides have said they’d like to avoid a strike, Dziczek says a walkout can’t be ruled out. The CAW has broken from tradition and not yet targeted any one company. So, it’s hard to tell what might happen.

“Each one of these companies has really a different pressure point. That’s why it’s really not clear. It depends who they strike. If they strike.”

Analysts point out that the most serious negotiations occur as we near the deadline. Deadline extensions are also a possibility.

The major auto companies are trying to reduce their costs in Canada. But the union is balking at some of the reforms worked out in the U.S., like profit sharing instead of pay raises.

The Windsor Star reports that the CAW has offered to increase the number of years it takes new workers to reach pay parity with existing workers. It’s currently six years. They are offering ten. There’s no limit in the U.S.

A strike would quickly cause auto plants on both sides of the border to close for lack of parts. This would hurt the companies as they try to gear up production to meet rising demands.

But, long term, a walkout could lead to less work in Canada, as car companies have the flexibility to move a lot of their production to the United States.

The final deal, Dziczek says, will likely recognize the car companies needs to keep costs under control, and that the needs of Canadian auto workers may be different than the needs of workers here in the U.S.

“The Canadian Auto Workers will hold very closely to their principals, but they can be very creative and flexible around those principals,” she said. “I think they understand what’s at stake here.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Email: jdgilbert@cbs.com
Facebook: facebook.com/carchronicles
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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