Toronto, Ontario – Members of the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW) working at General Motors have accepted a new restructuring agreement. Approximately 10,000 workers voted 87 per cent in favour at meetings in Oshawa, Windsor, St. Catharines and Woodstock, Ontario after the agreement was reached on March 8, 2009.
The new agreement encompasses numerous cost-saving initiatives, including wage freezes, reduced paid time off, bonus payments diverted to retiree health care, cuts to union-sponsored programs, and increased benefit co-pay premiums. However, the agreement will only be implemented once proposed bridge loans are approved and put in place by the federal government. It is also contingent on the company recommitting to a proportional Canadian manufacturing presence, including specific product commitments in GM’s respective plants.
“These changes are difficult for our members and retirees, but CAW members at GM agree that accepting these changes is the best choice under the circumstances,” said CAW president Ken Lewenza. “Our labour costs did not cause this global crisis, and labour concessions, no matter how deep they go, cannot solve that crisis. However, our members understand that the CAW must be part of the solution, and we have done that.”
The union said that the new contract will ensure Canadian plants retain their active labour cost advantage and remain comparable with, or lower than, other auto-producing developed nations. It also substantially reduces GM’s legacy cost liabilities in Canada.
Lewenza noted that governments around the world are providing major financial assistance to beleaguered automakers, and he urged governments to move quickly on proposed bridge loans, suggesting that deteriorating economic conditions require a quick response.