The Canadian Auto Workers union approves a tentative 4-year contract withand is expected to complete ratifications this weekend.
Speaking to reporters via a teleconference from Windsor, ON, Canada, CAW President Ken Lewenza says the union sought patterned bargaining agreements with each of the Detroit Three.
The CAW earlier approved a contract withand tentatively has approved an agreement with . was the final holdout because it was reluctant to invest heavily in workers while the company still is rebuilding itself after bankruptcy, Lewenza says.
“The corporations have a tendency to resist. And at the end of the day, they have a decision to make,” he says. “They say, ‘We are either going to have a good relationship or a bad relationship.’ Chrysler has historically taken the good relationship.”
A key bargaining point with for all three auto makers was starting wages for new hires. Chrysler’s contract is similar to theand GM agreements: It includes a new-hire grow-in program with a starting hourly wage of C$20.40 ($20.75), which the union says is equal to 60% of the current base rate. The wages grow into full compensation after 10 years.
Also at issue with the Detroit Three were signing bonuses and cost-of-living increases. With the tentatively approved Chrysler contract, new employees will receive a C$3,000 ($3,051) signing bonus and a lump-sum cost-of-living increase of C$2,000 ($2,034) inn 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Chrysler executives wanted to spread out cost-of-living increases rather than pay lump sums, Lewenza says.
He says the CAW also is working to bring back employees laid-off in the wake of Chrysler’s 2009 bankruptcy by the end of the contract period.
In an email to media, Chrysler declines further comment on the contract until the ratification process is completed. “We extend our appreciation to our Canadian workforce for their patience during this pivotal round of collective bargaining,” writes Al Iacobelli, vice president-employee relations.
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne did not take part in the contract negotiations but made his views public during bargaining, calling for concessions and commenting that Canada is the most expensive country in the world to make automobiles.
“Regardless of what our differences might have been, it’s about how we can work together to grow this business,” Lewenza says of Marchionne.
The CAW represents 8,000 Chrysler workers in Canada, the largest tally among the Detroit Three. Chrysler has plants in Brampton and Windsor, ON, Canada.
However, the future of the Windsor Assembly facility, which builds the auto maker’s minivan lineup on three shifts, has been a target of speculation since Marchionne made it known the company plans to end production of the Chrysler Town & Country, leaving the Dodge Caravan and the rebadgedRoutan to be built there.
“There are so many reports out there, and Chrysler has been very secretive to keep the competition from sneaking up on them.” Lewenza says. “We’ve been at three shifts more than 23 years. Let me put it this way: We are the home of the minivan.”
Job security is not guaranteed in the new contract, but Lewenza is confident about Chrysler’s recent successes.
“We see Chrysler growing,” he says. “We see momentum. We see customer confidence. And with all of those things, together why would you risk it?”