Toronto, Ontario – Bargaining committees for the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW) have given the union the authority to engage in extraordinary contract talks with the three North American automakers regarding their restructuring.

The CAW said the talks would be aimed at ensuring that labour costs at the Canadian plants of the three companies remain competitive with the companies’ U.S. plants, as the American parent corporations restructure their operations. Talks with the automakers are likely to begin next week.

“Labour costs clearly did not cause this worldwide crisis in the auto industry, and labour concessions cannot possibly solve that crisis,” said CAW president Ken Lewenza. “But we can’t ignore the precarious financial state of these companies, the extraordinary government offers of aid, and our need to remain fully competitive for future investment.”

In a special resolution authorizing the contract talks, the three bargaining committees attached conditions to any tentative deal that may be reached, including ratification by a majority of CAW members at each company, participation by the companies in a financial assistance agreement with the Ontario and Canadian governments, acceptance by the companies of agreed-upon commitments regarding their future proportional manufacturing presence and activity in Canada, and a comprehensive National Auto Strategy to address the overall challenges facing the auto industry, including trade imbalances between North America and the rest of the world.

“We have consistently indicated that the CAW will be part of the solution,” Lewenza said. “But the workers could work for free, and it wouldn’t make any difference without a broader national strategy to address this industry’s deeper problems.”

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