CAW president says talks intensifying as demands on union pile up

TORONTO — Labour concession talks between General Motors of Canada and the Canadian Auto Workers intensified Monday, several days past a government-imposed deadline, as the union president said demands were getting out of hand.

TORONTO — Labour concession talks between General Motors of Canada and the Canadian Auto Workers intensified Monday, several days past a government-imposed deadline, as the union president said demands were getting out of hand.

“We believe we’ve already made the sacrifices necessary, we believe we’re close to our limit,” CAW president Ken Lewenza said in an interview.

“At the end of the day, sooner or later, we’re not going to be able to go any further and we’re close to that.”

Teams bargained all through the long weekend aiming to strike a cost-cutting deal that will unlock $6 billion in assistance for the financially-troubled automaker.

Ottawa and the Ontario government allowed the parties to continue talking past Friday’s midnight deadline, while also working behind the scenes to broker a deal.

Lewenza had said “tiny steps of progress” were being made, but by Monday afternoon he still saw no signs of an agreement being reached.

Still, he insisted that talks can’t break down — making his team feel like they “have a gun pointed to our head” — because otherwise the company will be forced into filing for bankruptcy.

When negotiations resumed early Monday the two master committees met face-to-face before breaking off into smaller groups in an attempt to deal with the most pressing issues.

Pensions, benefits and wages continue to be the main points of contention, he said, especially because he feels the union has already made greater concessions than were asked of Chrysler.

Last month, Chrysler reached a deal with union members that cut the company’s labour costs by $19 an hour.

But GM is in an even worse financial position largely due to a ballooning pension deficit.

On Monday Lewenza urged both the governments and the company to stop demanding more, step back and analyzes the contributions CAW has now put on the table.

“We need to conclude these negotiations because our members are on the edge and the economy is on the edge the longer this goes on,” he said.

And with talks now heating up between the United Auto Workers and GM’s U.S. parent, Lewenza foresees greater pressure on his union, he added.

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