Factory employees work on Ford Crown Victoria vehicles on Thursday, September 8, 2011 at the Ford Assembly Plant in St. Thomas, Ont. The Canadian Auto Workers and the three big North American automakers are continuing contract talks in the shadow of a possible strike, but there's word of some progress.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
TORONTO - The Canadian Auto Workers and the three big North American automakers are continuing contract talks in the shadow of a possible strike, but there's word of some progress.
A CAW spokesman is hinting one of the companies — which the union won't name — is looking at a new proposal on the key issue of wages.
CAW national secretary-treasurer Peter Kennedy says the company is reviewing the union's proposal to cut pay for new hires following a meeting Saturday morning in Toronto.
There are few additional details but the CAW has scheduled a news conference for 4 p.m. today.
The automakers — Ford, Chrysler and General Motors — have been pushing for a permanent wage reduction for fresh employees, similar to a deal the companies reached in the U.S.
But the CAW has said that's out of the question, and instead proposed that new employees earn less only when they are first hired and then take longer to reach the top end of the wage scale.
If agreements aren't reached by Monday at 11:59 p.m. the union would be in a position to put its 21,000 members on strike.
However the CAW has said that deadline could be pushed back if final-hour talks are productive.
"We will keep talking as long as there's an opportunity to get something more done. We'll be going around the clock now until Monday night," Kennedy said Saturday.
The auto companies did not immediately comment and have generally kept a low public profile during the talks.
The CAW has suggested it may target all three companies in a strike.
The union's bargaining strategy over 3 1/2 weeks worth of negotiations has been to help control fixed costs, share in some of the success of the companies in a modest way and position itself for future investment.
"It's not like we're coming in here with a litany of proposals a mile long," Kennedy said.
"We came in here with very modest proposals from a union perspective."