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CAW reports progress in talks with Big 3 automakers

The head of the Canadian Auto Workers says the union is going to focus its negotiations with the Big Three automakers on reaching a deal with Ford.

Ken Lewenza says Ford has shown the most willingness to reach a new contract and the union will work around the clock to achieve that.

He told a news conference Sunday afternoon that General Motors and Chrysler must continue to work on proposals that meet the desires of their employees.

The union has threatened strike action if there is no deal by late Monday night.

The automakers — Ford, Chrysler and General Motors — have been pushing for a permanent wage reduction for fresh employees, similar to a deal the companies reached in the U.S.

But the CAW has said that’s out of the question, and instead proposed that new employees earn less only when they are first hired and then take longer to reach the top end of the wage scale.

If agreements aren’t reached by Monday at 11:59 p.m. the union would be in a position to put its 21,000 members on strike.

However the CAW has said that deadline could be pushed back if final-hour talks are productive.

“We will keep talking as long as there’s an opportunity to get something more done. We’ll be going around the clock now until Monday night,” Kennedy said Saturday.

The auto companies did not immediately comment and have generally kept a low public profile during the talks.

The CAW has suggested it may target all three companies in a strike.

The union’s bargaining strategy over 3 1/2 weeks worth of negotiations has been to help control fixed costs, share in some of the success of the companies in a modest way and position itself for future investment.

“It’s not like we’re coming in here with a litany of proposals a mile long,” Kennedy said.

“We came in here with very modest proposals from a union perspective.”