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Canadian Auto Workers Union Passes Final ‘Big Three’ Test

October 23, 1987

TORONTO (AP) _ The Canadian Auto Workers union reached a tentative three-year contract agreement with General Motors of Canada Ltd., and called off a strike Thursday by 38,000 workers.

The agreement, reached Wednesday night and subject to ratification this weekend, marked the final hurdle for White in negotiating with the ″big three″ automakers in Canada, subsidiaries of GM, Ford and Chrysler.

It was the first major success for Union President Bob White, a staunch Canadian nationalist, since he took the CAW out of the U.S.-based United Auto Workers in 1985.

The three contracts are similar and follow the pattern established in the first settlement for 10,000 CAW members at Chrysler Canada Ltd., reached Sept. 17 after a three-day strike. Ford settled with its 13,000 Canadian workers on Oct. 1, hours before a scheduled strike.

White obtained his main demand of inflation-proof pensions from all three companies, a first in the North American auto industry.

While he was negotiating in Canada, the United Auto Workers successfully secured new three-year pacts with GM, Ford and Chrysler in the United States.

At a news conference in Toronto, White and GM vice president Rick Curd said the GM contract includes an immediate 3 percent wage increase, a 25 cents an hour increase in the second and third years of the contract and cost-of-living raises.

Assembly workers at GM’s 11 plants in Ontario Province and two plants in Quebec earned an average $11.60 an hour under the old contract.

In addition, White said workers will get a larger say in GM production because a union representative will join a panel of company executives overseeing quality.

″Our members on the shop floor have a lot of ideas in terms of quality problems,″ he said. ″What we want to do is make sure those ideas get to the president of the corporation.″

White said GM-Canada had matched Ford’s commitment that job guarantees contained in the new U.S. contracts will not result in job losses in Canadian plants.

Curd said GM’s relations with the union were at an all-time high following the negotiations, but the settlement was marred by a wildcat strike started by 400 workers at GM’s Oshawa plant Wednesday night.

It resulted in the shutdown of two car plants and a truck factory, and a total of 4,300 workers were idled, officials said.

A handful of strikers tried to block access to the complex early Thursday but police cleared the path for vehicles and the day shift reported for work, ending the stoppage, which cost GM production of 625 cars and 125 trucks.

One man brandishing a baseball bat was arrested Wednesday night and charged with possession of a dangerous weapon, police said.

″We were all disheartened,″ said Curd. ″It’s an injustice to the job that union bargainers did.″

The company agreed not to take disciplinary action against the leaders of the wildcat strike, White said.

He said the Oshawa workers were angered over a recent shift schedule change. The Oshawa local has 17,000 members.

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