September 25, 2002

CAW’s Hargrove urges federal government to invest in auto sector

Toronto, Ontario – As the Canadian Auto Worker’s union negotiations with Ford Motor Company get under way, CAW President, Buzz Hargrove, has sent a letter to Prime Minister Jean Chretien urging the federal government to put more money into the automotive sector.

“The rules of the game are set when several (U.S.) states, including Ohio and
Michigan, put millions on the table to keep and attract auto investment,” said
Hargrove. “Canada, to retain the engine of the economy – the auto industry –
has to look ahead.”

The workers, he added, have put Canada’s auto industry at the top in terms of quality and productivity. With an $18 – $20 U.S. labour cost advantage, Canada has a great deal to offer, but only “if the government understands it can’t fall asleep at the wheel, and expect the industry to stay the course.”

The full text of Hargrove’s letter is as follows:

    The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien
    Prime Minister
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, ON

    Dear Prime Minister,

    I am writing to brief you on the outcome of our recent collective
    bargaining discussions with General Motors Canada, and in particular on
    the significance of those contract talks for our joint efforts to develop
    a new automotive policy framework in Canada.

    As you know, our contract talks succeeded in reaching a new tentative
    contract agreement before the September 17 deadline. The agreement
    contains some significant, but responsible, improvements in wages and
    other compensation for CAW members at General Motors.

    I am especially proud of the fact that this agreement was reached without
    a work stoppage. Since I became President of the CAW in 1992, we have
    achieved contracts without a work stoppage in 9 of the last 10 Big Three
    contracts that have been negotiated. I am cautiously optimistic that a
    similarly favourable result can be achieved at the next two companies we
    will bargain with (Ford and DaimlerChrysler), although the challenges in
    both cases are daunting.

    One of the most important achievements of our negotiations with GM
    Canada, in my opinion, was tying down General Motors’ commitment to spend
    upwards of $800 million on new investments in several Canadian facilities
    over the next three years. These investments will include:

    • completion of the new car paint shop in Oshawa (positioning that
      facility to attain yet another third production shift, this time at
      the No. 2 car plant, once the new Buick model is assigned there)

    • tooling required to begin assembly of the extended crew cab version of
      GM’s top-selling pickup truck at Oshawa

    • tooling required to insource production of various components to GM’s
      components complex in St. Catharines, helping to save a total of 325
      jobs in the medium term, and perhaps another 100 after 3 years

    In addition to these commitments, GM has pledged to continue working with
    us to identify potential products and/or buyers for the now-idled Sté.

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