Toronto, Ontario – Talks between Chrysler and the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW) have broken down after the two sides were unable to reach an agreement. In a statement, the union said that Chrysler turned down the pattern agreement established with General Motors, as well as other cost savings specific to Chrysler.

CAW president Ken Lewenza said that Chrysler changed the criteria for reaching a new deal several times during the bargaining process, when it was believed a tentative agreement had been within reach. “Chrysler kept moving the goalposts whenever we got close,” Lewenza said. “If this hadn’t happened, we would be announcing a tentative agreement by now.”

In his statement, Chrysler chief bargainer Al Iacobelli said, “We all recognize that we are in unprecedented times as it relates to the global economy and current financial crisis, which has a direct impact on the automotive industry. After several days of bargaining in good faith, Chrysler and the CAW have not reached an agreement that closes the competitive gap with other automobile manufacturers in Canada, to ensure Chrysler’s immediate viability.

“The company has been very clear in its Canadian Government testimony and position with the CAW: we must ‘close the competitive gap’ of $19 an hour immediately, with a goal of not having to affect base wages and pensions, while contributing to Chrysler’s viability with direct annual savings to the bottom line in the current year, and each of the remaining years of the contract.”

Iacobelli said that although the company made progress toward closing the gap, significant issues related to the existing pattern remain on the table.

Lewenza reaffirmed the union’s commitment to reaching a new agreement that would trim costs, as part of the company’s restructuring plan to be submitted to the federal and Ontario provincial government. Chrysler had earlier stated that it would consider closing its manufacturing facilities in Canada if it does not receive Canadian government assistance, significant union concessions, and a cessation of demands from Revenue Canada for back taxes.

Discussions between the CAW and Chrysler are scheduled to continue until March 31.

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