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CAW Says Carmakers Can Sign Contracts Without Stoppages

Canadian Auto Workers President Ken Lewenza says that Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC can afford to sign new labor contracts without work stoppages if they scale back demands for union concessions.

The CAW hasn’t decided whether to focus negotiations with one company first or try to sign contracts with all three at the same time, Lewenza said today in a telephone interview from Toronto.

“We need to get a deal without a work stoppage,” Lewenza said. “There is a little bit of enthusiasm now, in the turnaround at GM and Chrysler; obviously Ford has never been more profitable. So let’s keep that momentum, that’s the message I’m going to send.”

One obstacle is the Canadian dollar’s rise against the U.S. dollar of 58 percent in the last decade. Ford estimates that it spends $79 for every hour of work in Canadian plants, when including costs for benefits and retirees, compared with $64 an hour in the U.S., $48 in Germany and $35 in Australia.

Lewenza said the automaker demands in this round of negotiations are about the toughest he has seen in a 35-year career.

“It’s way too premature to see if one of those three companies are going to decide not to fight or all three companies are going to decide to fight together,” he said. “The most important issue is getting a deal actually with all three companies at the same time.”

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