The Canadian Auto Workers has urged its members at Chrysler to be patient as formal talks resumed Monday following a weekend pause of the main negotiating teams while the union ensured ratification of a deal with Ford.
"It's crucial that members at all Chrysler locations stay on the job and continue working," the union told its members in an update on negotiations. "A failure to do so will have serious negative consequences on our ability to reach a new agreement and will greatly diminish the bargaining committee's negotiating power."
Employee tensions are high because company CEO Sergio Marchionne has been vocal about his desire for substantial contract changes and his opposition to pattern bargaining with rivals Ford and General Motors.
However, the union says the ratification by Ford workers by a margin of 82 per cent and a similar deal ironed out with General Motors provide the framework it will follow with Chrysler.
Contract talks resumed Monday at the highest level between Chrysler and the Canadian Auto Workers union.
Top execs now negotiating
The talks were put on hold during the weekend in order to allow union executives to attend the ratification meetings for Ford workers who signed a new deal Sept. 17.
The support for that agreement may help the union as it tries to bargain a similar package for Chrysler employees it represents.
The CAW's president, Ken Lewenza, knows it's not going to be easy with Chrysler. Company executives have made it clear they want an agreement that lowers labour costs to match those in the United States.
Lewenza said it could be days before there is a tentative agreement between the two sides.
"We can get a deal. I've a great deal of respect for [Chrysler CEO Sergio] Marchionne and his management team," Lewenza said. "I don't hide that and I think he's got respect for our union. But at the end of the day, you can only respect each other when you dot the I's and cross the T's."
'They're making lots of money and that money should be shared.'— Dino Chiodo, CAW
Dino Chiodo represents Chrysler workers in Windsor, Ont., where the company's flagship He said going on strike is the last resort.
"It's all about coming to the table and do what's in the best interests of the members," Chiodo said. "They're making lots of money, and that money should be shared with our membership, however modest."
The union is in legal position to strike if at any point progress seriously stalls in the talks. It has promised to give 24 hours notice before a work stoppage.
While Chrysler negotiations continue, Canadian GM workers are getting ready to vote on their tentative four-year deal on Wednesday and Thursday.
Lewenza that deal is the same as the one signed with Ford.
"[Chrysler] should just accept the pattern without an argument," Lewenza said. "Initially, they were very reluctant, very overzealous, in terms of their demands, but the reality is now they're the last company out there, and they got to respond to the local and master bargaining committees with the pattern."
The GM and Ford deals contain no base wage increases, but workers will get $2,000 a year in the second, third and fourth years to cover cost of living increases, and a $3,000 ratification bonus.
Under the terms of the deal, new hires will make 60 per cent of full pay, which would be reached 10 years later, instead of after six years as in the last collective agreement.
New hires will also be signed up for a hybrid pension plan, rather than a defined benefit plan for current workers.
The CAW represents more than 8,000 Chrysler workers in Ontario.