On Verge of Accord, GM Strike Talks Extended - TORONTO

TORONTO -- On the brink of a deal to end a costly strike, the Canadian Auto Workers and General Motors ignored a deadline and worked into t...

TORONTO -- On the brink of a deal to end a costly strike, the Canadian Auto Workers and General Motors ignored a deadline and worked into the night Monday in quest of an accord.
"We've come a long way," said CAW President Buzz Hargrove. "We still have tough hurdles to jump, but we're determined we're going to keep at this thing."

The 20-day strike by 26,000 Canadian workers has shut down General Motors operations in Canada and idled thousands of workers in the United States and Mexico because of disruption to the flow of parts.

GM announced new strike-related layoffs Monday in the United States, raising the number of affected U.S. and Mexican workers to more than 18,000.



The CAW had intended to halt the talks at noon Monday if no deal was reached, but agreed to keep talking after both sides reported that differences on the toughest issues had been resolved. There was still hope on both sides that the union could hold a ratification vote Wednesday, which could bring strikers back to work by week's end.

General Motors Canada is the biggest manufacturer in Canada, and economists say a prolonged strike would have a marked effect on the national economy. Lost earnings could quickly tally $100 million a day, according to union calculations.

Hargrove said GM agreed to follow the example Chrysler Canada set last month, promising to help protect union jobs by accepting limits on outsourcing -- farming out work on auto parts to less costly independent suppliers.

A GM spokesman, Stew Low, said the tentative agreement on outsourcing was not identical to that signed between the CAW and Chrysler.

"There is recognition from the CAW that we indeed we are different," Low said. "Both sides feel pretty good now on where we are with the outsourcing issue."

Among the final batch of unresolved issues were a GM policy of mandatory overtime and a union demand that GM set up a framework for resolving some 3,000 outstanding grievances by workers at a truck plant in Oshawa, Ontario.

"We have made an enormous amount of progress in last 45 hours," Hargrove said. "But there's still no solution to two or three issues."

The strike, which began Oct. 2, is the longest by the CAW since a 97-day walkout in 1970.

GM Monday added 10,893 workers in the United States to its strike-related layoff list, raising the total to 18,371 in the United States and Mexico.

The new layoffs resulted from partial shutdowns of plants in Michigan, Kansas, Missouri and Ohio.

GM's parts subsidiary, Delphi Automotive Systems, said it added 1,198 workers to its layoff list for a total of 3,210. Partial shutdowns today occurred at plants in Michigan and Ohio.

In Detroit, negotiators for the United Auto Workers and GM met Monday after a weekend recess. Talks with U.S. union are expected to intensify once there is a final settlement in Canada with the independent CAW.

The Canadian talks got a kick-start last week when General Motors Corp. Chairman Jack Smith flew to Toronto from the company's Detroit headquarters to meet with Hargrove.

According to the union, Smith agreed the company would accept some restrictions on outsourcing. The union also softened its stance by recognizing GM is at a competitive disadvantage because its two main competitors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp., contract out much more of their parts production.

Both sides said Monday there was an agreement on the sale of two Ontario parts plants which employ about 3,500 people.

GM said the deal included a "transition package," possibly enabling workers at the trim plant in Windsor and fabrication plant in Oshawa to move to other GM plants.

The union also wanted the company to reverse plans to contract out about 500 jobs, most of them at its Oshawa assembly operations. A union source said the company had agreed to reduce that number substantially.

Hargrove said even with a favorable deal in place, union members understand there will still be a potential for job loss.

"We're simply making sure that General Motors doesn't sell our jobs to the highest bidder," he said.

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