GM, CAW square off today as contract talks with Canada’s automakers begin

TORONTO (July 20, 1999) — General Motors and the Canadian Auto Workers will open talks on a new collective bargaining agreement today as the union begins the process of choosing a target for negotiating a new master contract.

The union will meet with Ford Motor Co. of Canada tomorrow and DaimlerChrysler AG on July 22.

The union’s current three-year contracts with all three automakers expire Sept. 21.

The key issue in this round of bargaining will be pensions, the union said. Negotiations are expected to continue throughout the summer.

A sidelight to the ongoing discussions with GM will be the company’s plan to cut 1100 jobs at its St. Catharines plant. When the layoff were announced earlier this year, CAW president Buzz Hargrove said the CAW would insist that GM replace the jobs. GM has said it would not begin laying off workers until after negotiations with the CAW had been concluded.

Nearly half of the jobs will be cut at American Axle, which was spun off from GM in 1993 but whose workers are covered by the CAW contract with GM. Another 370 layoffs will come from an engine plant and 100 from brake operations that have been discontinued.

In 1996, CAW members struck GM for three weeks before ratifying a new deal.

The current agreement brought an end to mandatory overtime and contained gains in wages, cost-of-living, income security, benefits, improved retirement incentives, reduced worktime, and limits on GM’s ability to outsource work.

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