Chrysler could face strike tonight in Canada

Auto union president sees a 95% chance

October 15, 2002|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

TORONTO - The Canadian Auto Workers union said yesterday that DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler faces a "95 percent chance" of a strike tonight because of its refusal to find a new vehicle for an Ontario plant scheduled to close in July and because of its proposals for concessions.

"It's impossible to see how we can avoid a strike" before the union's deadline of 11:59 p.m. tonight , union President Buzz Hargrove said in Toronto yesterday after the third-largest U.S. automaker presented its contract offer.

Chrysler, which has about 12,800 CAW workers, said talks aimed at averting a walkout were continuing.

The union wants Chrysler to save 1,340 jobs by agreeing to build a new vehicle at the Pillette Road factory in Windsor, Ontario, where production of Dodge Ram vans is scheduled to end in July.

The company has said that doesn't make business sense. Chrysler also makes Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Concorde sedans, and Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans in Canada.

"The only way DaimlerChrysler will be able to close the Pillette Road plant will be to guarantee work to a number of workers somewhere [else]," said analyst Michael Robinet at CSM Worldwide Inc., a market-research company in Northville, Mich.

"The strong relationship that DaimlerChrysler has had with the CAW is certainly at risk."

DaimlerChrysler's U.S. shares fell 95 cents yesterday to close at $32.86 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Canadian Auto Workers union has agreed with General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. to new three year-contracts that include factory investment commitments to help save jobs and pay raises of 3 percent in the first two years and 2 percent in the final year. The union has made job security a priority in this year's talks.

Chrysler has offered to move about two-thirds of the workers at Pillette Road to the Windsor minivan plant, which builds the Caravan and the Town & Country, company spokeswoman Kerrey Kerr said.

The company also has offered to improve early-retirement incentives to ensure that almost all Pillette Road workers can move or retire, she said.

The offer to move the Pillette Road workers to the minivan factory depends on the success of the new Pacifica model, which is scheduled to go into full production at the minivan plant in January and is "too iffy," Hargrove said.

Chrysler hasn't kept similar promises in the past, including one it made to move 70 workers from an Ajax, Ontario, plant to one in Etobicoke, Ontario, the union leader said.

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