GM reaches cost-cutting deal with Canadian union

The Canadian Auto Workers union reached agreement with General Motors to reduce labor costs, paving the way for authorities to further fund the ailing US auto giant.

Some 10,000 CAW members "voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new collective agreement, ratifying the deal by 86 percent," the union said in a statement following the tentative agreement reached with GM on Friday.

The cost-cutting move, which involves about a 15- to 16-dollar wage cut per hour, was demanded by Ottawa and the Ontario government as part of a joint bailout of GM, to try to make the company more competitive with Japanese and European automakers.

"Although we were forced to make a number of important sacrifices, the support we received from our members is proof that they recognize the incredible challenges the industry is facing," CAW president Ken Lewenza said.

GM said it "welcomed" the ratification of the new agreement, praising "the shared sacrifices" of employees and the CAW's "leadership and professionalism."

"The ratification of the new agreement is a critical step toward GM Canada's successful restructuring into a stronger, more viable company," the automaker said.

The company has asked for a loan of three billion Canadian dollars (2.7 billion dollars US) from the Canadian and Ontario governments, and billions more from Washington, to keep it afloat as it restructures its North American operations.

New General Motors vehicles sit in a lot in Michigan.

Ottawa had set a May 15 deadline to reach a deal, but the talks continued until Friday and votes were cast over the weekend.

GM is expected to present Ottawa and Washington with its restructuring plan by June 1.

The agreement, which also includes major benefits, wages and pension concessions but keeps plants open in Ontario province, came days after GM secured a similar cost-cutting deal with its unionized American workers.

Last month, US automaker Chrysler struck an agreement with its Canadian employees to trim compensation by 19 dollars (16 US per month).

But that agreement did not prevent Chrysler to file for bankruptcy protection. Many analysts predict a similar scenario for GM this week.

Source AFP

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