The head of the Canadian Auto Workers was not surprised
members of the United Auto Workers voted Saturday to approve a new
four-year contract agreement with Chrysler LLC, but Buzz Hargrove
voiced disappointment with a deal he said fails to resolve issues of
foreign competition and health care. He also noted the narrow
ratification indicated significant dissent among the workforce.
Union officials said 56 per cent of production workers and 51 per
cent of skilled trades workers voted for the pact. The percentages
voting in favour were much higher among clerical workers and
engineers represented by the union. ``It shows there's an enormous
amount of dissent among the rank and file members,'' said Hargrove.
``People are very concerned about job security.''
The new contract covers about 45,000 active workers at Chrysler
and more than 55,000 Chrysler retirees and 23,000 surviving spouses.
It will expire on Sept. 14, 2011.
UAW and Chrysler bargainers reached the agreement Oct. 10 after a
six-hour strike. The deal came the same day the union announced that
General Motors Corp. workers had approved a similar contract.
Hargrove noted the first deal always sets the pace for contracts
with the other big auto makers.
``Once the U-A-W established a pattern at General Motors and it
was ratified, historically the second and third companies ratify the
contract as well,'' he said. But Hargove went on to paint a gloomy
picture with a template he felt lets the companies off the hook in
the fight to bring fairness in trade between domestic auto makers
and foreign-owned companies.
``I think the agreement (with Chrysler and General Motors)
worsens things in the sense that one more time the U-S government is
let off the hook in terms of dealing with the trade issue.''
Hargrove said, adding that his union will not go down a similar road
when they deal with the Big Three automakers in July of 2008.
Hargrove also pointed out many American workers opposed the
agreement because it establishes lower wages for some non-core,
non-assembly workers. The contract also doesn't make as many
promises for future work at U.S. plants as the contract approved by
the GM workers. He also lamented a deal that shifts health-care
costs to the union, taking companies out of the battle to pressure
the government for universal health care. But he also acknowledged
the union can't influence what fights the companies choose to take
``The role of the union in my mind is to push as much as we can
for investment, and deal with the issue of job security with
retirement incentives, through buyouts for people who want to move
on... and to get some income suport for a period of time following
restructuring,'' Hargrove said.
Chrysler, which became a private company in August when it was
bought by Cerberus Capital Management LLC, said the agreement will
make the company more competitive. But Hargrove maintained that
savings in labour costs would not make any difference to the foreign