Canadian Auto Workers union President Ken Lewenza says the labor group will take the outline of a tentative 4-year contract it hammered out today withto bargainers at and , hoping the auto makers will follow suit and avoid a strike at midnight tonight.
“I believe (GM and) understand pattern bargaining is incredibly important for the union, and in the past when one company led the other companies followed,” Lewenza says in a conference call today with journalists to announce the deal.
“I would just ask for that same respect,” he says.
Details of the Ford plan are few, but a key element includes a 2-tier wage structure where new hires would earn 60% of a current employee’s wage. After 10 years, the wage would reach 100%. The wage structure mirrors the deal the Detroit Three struck with the United Auto Workers in the U.S. in 2009.
The union also struck what Lewenza calls a “hybrid” pension plan, where employees would start contributing to their retirement, but he stops short of characterizing it as a defined-contribution plan.
The labor leader admits to being “miles apart” on a deal with GM and Chrysler, but says if they accept the Ford contract as an outline a midnight work stoppage could be avoided.
“If any one of the companies says this pattern is unacceptable, then we will have no choice but to withdraw our labor,” he says.
The auto makers say they need concessions from the CAW to keep operating in the country, because a strong Canadian dollar makes it the most expensive place to build vehicles. But labor has been steadfast in asking that its members be rewarded for sacrifices made during the recession, now that the Detroit Three are profitable again.