The Canadian Auto Workers union says it will continue negotiating with GM and Chrysler past the midnight strike deadline, averting a labour walkout for now.

The union, which hours earlier struck a tentative deal with Ford Motor Co., said it will keep talking with the remaining automakers as long as progress is being made.

But it also said that if talks stall, it will issue a 24-hour strike notice.

"We have agreed with the CAW to extend the agreement," LouAnn Gosselin, head of communications for Chrysler Canada, said in an email. "We are currently reviewing the tentative agreement that has been reached with Ford."

Earlier, CAW head Ken Lewenza warned  that the union would ask Chrysler and GM to accept the Ford deal as a pattern settlement, otherwise "we will have to withdraw our labour."

"That is the last tool in the bargaining toolbox," he said. "The minute we go out on strike, I'm going to be able to look you in the eye and say we had no choice."

"So I say to Chrysler and General Motors respectively; don't force us to use that last tool."

Ford employs 4,534 unionized workers in Canada. Chrysler and GM employ more than 8,000 unionized workers each.

Negotiations between the Big Three North American automakers and their Canadian workers had been under the gun, as a midnight deadline to reach a deal neared. The CAW had said its strategy was to focus its energies on negotiations with Ford before trying to make a similar deal with the other companies.

"We have unanimously agreed to take to our membership a tentative collective agreement that we believe meets the objective of our unions, of course, meets the needs, the objective of our membership but just as important, meets the objectives of Ford Motor Company in terms of their position for future investment which, as we all know, are challenging times in the auto industry," Lewenza said.

The four-year agreement will see no base wage increases. But if the deal is approved, employees would be eligible for a $3,000 bonus after ratification. As well, in December 2013, 2014, 2015, employees would receive a $2,000 cost-of-living bonus.

Lewenza also said that Ford will create approximately 600 new positions in Canada, most of those at Ford's Oakville, Ont., assembly plant. 

A Ford Canada spokeswoman said Monday that the agreement will help the company remain competitive, but declined to provide additional details as the deal still has to be ratified by CAW members.

"We believe that the tentative agreement offers unique-to-Canada solutions that will improve the competitiveness of the Canadian operations while providing employees the opportunity to earn a good living," said Lauren More. 

With files from The Canadian Press