Toronto, Ontario – No downtime or shift reductions at Chrysler’s Canadian auto assembly plants is expected, according to Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW) president Ken Lewenza. Leaders from the national CAW and the Chrysler sector of the union held a business update meeting with senior executives from Chrysler’s North American manufacturing division last week in Windsor, Ontario.

The meeting had been scheduled for several weeks and is one that the CAW and Chrysler hold on a quarterly basis. The CAW said in a statement that “no significant discussions occurred at the meeting regarding rumoured merger negotiations between Chrysler and other automakers. The Chrysler manufacturing executives who participated in the CAW meeting are not involved in those negotiations.”

The meeting emphasized the challenging market conditions affecting all North American automakers as a result of the U.S. financial crisis, but despite the current sales downturn, no anticipated or announced downtime or shift reductions were discussed at Chrysler’s Canadian facilities. The union reported that Chrysler’s Canadian sales volumes are holding up much better than U.S. sales; the decline in the Canadian dollar has reestablished a significant labour cost advantage for Canadian plants; and the company’s share of the North American minivan segment has increased this year, especially important as Chrysler’s minivans are made in Canada.

“The North American auto industry is now being seriously affected by the credit crunch,” said CAW president Ken Lewenza. “It is imperative that governments and financial authorities in Canada and the U.S. respond to the credit crunch with loan guarantees, short-term credit, and other emergency assistance for the automakers and their financial divisions. It is unacceptable that governments will ride to the rescue of banks and other financial institutions, but ignore the plight of major companies in our real economy who are suffering from exactly the same problem: a short-term freezing up of credit.”

Lewenza urged the federal and Ontario governments, in conjunction with U.S. authorities, to participate in efforts to free up badly-needed credit for the auto industry. CAW leaders have spoken against the possibility of a merger between Chrysler and GM, because of the risks posed to workers from post-merger consolidation and closures.