TORONTO (AP) — The Canadian Auto Workers will not accept wage cuts, union leader Buzz Hargrove declared Wednesday, even as a United Auto Workers local at a Magna International Inc. plant in New York began voting on a new contract that does exactly that.
''We're not going to try to buy jobs by being the cheapest workers in the world,'' Hargrove said as CAW skilled trades workers met to discuss proposals for a crucial round of bargaining with the Detroit Three auto makers this summer and fall.
He drew his line in the sand as more than 2,000 UAW employees at Magna's new process gear operation in Syracuse, N.Y., voted on a deal that reduces hourly wages by about 25 percent, but will also keep the plant open and generate new investment by the Canadian auto parts giant.
''During this round of negotiations, Magna made it clear to our UAW negotiating team that they could not afford to keep New Process Gear open at its current cost structure and later acknowledged that they intended to carry out plans to close our facility in the near future,'' said a UAW summary of the tentative agreement.
Similar demands for wage cuts and benefit reductions are being made of the CAW at parts makers in Canada as they struggle with the surge in the value of the Canadian dollar and market share losses by key customers Chrysler LLC, Ford and General Motors, Hargrove said.
The real issue, he said, is the loss of market share, and that cannot be solved at the bargaining table by the CAW.
Magna itself has put on the negotiating table an agreement that calls for cuts of approximately $2 million at its Integram seat-making plant in Windsor, Ont., CAW sources have told the Globe and Mail.
The cuts don't include wage reductions, but involve concessions the CAW will not accept, the officials said.
Another parts maker, PPG Industries Inc., wants a 25 percent wage cut, a two-tiered wage structure, and major reductions in benefits at a glass-making plant in Oshawa, Ont., that supplies the massive GM complex in that city, said Jerry Dias, an assistant to Hargrove.
Cutting wages and allowing the companies to hire new workers at half the hourly rates of existing employees is not the answer, Hargrove insisted.