A labour specialist warns the CAW should be aware that the Detroit Three automakers "still feel fragile."
Charlotte Yates, a labour professor at McMaster University, said the companies have recovered from the brink of bankruptcy. Now companies will try and leverage the still-fragile economy as much as possible during ongoing contract negotiations, she said.
"Companies are opportunistic, they see this as an opportunity to push back further; wages, benefits and so on, because, in fact, unions have been weakened over the last few years," Yates said.
The CAW now says it's seeing progress in contract talks with the Big Three automakers but Yates says that doesn't guarantee long-term stability.
Yates says the union may reach a deal, but if it isn't in the automakers' best interests, the companies could taper off production in Canada.
"Whether they would actually shut down and rebuild another plant, that's a heck of a capital investment. But what they may not do, is make the investments that will make it long-term viable," Yates said. "That obviously weakens the likelihood that that plant would get new product."
Union warns of strike
The CAW maintains if it can't reach a deal, a strike with all three automakers remains a possibility.
In new leaflets being distributed throughout assembly plants, the bargaining committees working with GM, Chrysler and Ford say they have come up against a number of demands they have no intention of giving in to.
Demands include, according to the leaflets, eliminating the cost of living adjustment and the "30-and-out pension plan."
Representatives for the auto companies say they're trying to remain competitive. They're looking at reducing costs and at new investment.
The CAW says the corporations are refusing to commit to any new investments in Canadian plants, which it says puts jobs in jeopardy.
Dino Chiodo, president of CAW Local 444, is the chairman of the union's Chrysler master bargaining committee. He says all three bargaining committees are determined to reject the demands.
"We're looking for investment. We're looking for job security, product allocation, and that's something that the company is really not even focusing on at this point," Chiodo said.
The union's national president, Ken Lewenza, says there is still time to work out new agreements with each automaker. But he admits it doesn't look good right now.
"Hopefully, in the next few days, we'll start systematically clarifying one issue after another, but that's not the stage of bargaining at this particular time," he said.
The union said last week it will strike not one but all three automakers if a deal can't be reached.