No concessions, a curb on unnecessary overtime, another 3-year contract and three separate plant-closing strategies form the agenda for the Canadian Auto Workers union as it prepares to negotiate a new master agreement with the Big Three.

The current 3-year pact expires at midnight Sept. 17, a year ahead of the 4-year United Auto Workers union deal. Both were negotiated in 1999 — much headier times than the climate in which the CAW finds itself today.

CAW President Buzz Hargrove says the 3-year time frame has not backfired and angrily denies suggestions it made it easier for car makers to close Canadian plants next year, while UAW facilities enjoy an added year of protection. He says the Canadian plant closings are not related to the contract length.

He is most angered by Ford Motor Co.'s decision to close Ontario Truck in Oakville and put the next-generation F-150 into the renovated Ford Rouge Center in Dearborn. Oakville is set to close in late 2003 or first quarter 2004. The Rouge complex is scheduled for completion in mid-2003.

A CAW priority will be securing a commitment from Ford for a new product at Ontario Truck to compensate for the “direct transfer of our jobs from a Canadian to a U.S. plant,” Hargrove says.

The CAW is taking a more sympathetic stance with Chrysler Group, which plans to close the Pillette Road Truck Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ont., in July 2003.

General Motors Corp.'s pending closure of its Ste. Therese, Que., plant in September also will be on the table. The union will ask the company to mothball the plant instead of closing it permanently.

Negotiations begin in July. Shortly after Labor Day, the union will pick a company to negotiate the pattern-setting master agreement. The odds-on favorite is GM, which appears to be vying for the opportunity with a couple of strategic announcements on the opening day of the CAW convention.

GM announced it will add a third shift to its Oshawa, Ont., car plant to meet Impala demand. GM also announced Troy Clarke will take over as vice president-manufacturing and labor relations. Clarke and Gary Cowger, who left the post to become President-GM North America, are credited with mending labor relations.