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CAW Won't Speculate On Chrysler Concessions

Canadian Auto Workers president isn't saying whether the union will give more concessions with Chrysler when negotiations resume Monday afternoon.

TORONTO (AP) -- The president of the Canadian Auto Workers union refused to say Monday whether the union will give more concessions in negotiations with Chrysler.

Ken Lewenza has previously insisted the union will stick to the pattern established in a deal with General Motors Corp. last month. But he seemed to soften his stance, saying he doesn't want to speculate on what might happen in negotiations scheduled to resume Monday afternoon.

Lewenza said the situation is "shifting enormously" and he's still waiting to see the outcome of ongoing negotiations between Chrysler LLC and the United Auto Workers in the U.S.

Chrysler has until the end of the month to reach an agreement with the CAW, the UAW and potential partner Fiat in order to receive long-term government loans.

"There is an incredible amount of pressure on the CAW and obviously a significant amount of pressure on Chrysler Corp. to come to a resolution, hopefully this week, to qualify for the terms and conditions of the loans from government," Lewenza said.

He said it's frustrating that the "goal posts" keep moving in negotiations. The CAW reached an agreement with GM on a deal recently that they hoped would set the pattern for the Chrysler negotiation.

But both Chrysler and the Canadian government say the union must offer a lot more concessions so that labor costs are competitive with non-unionized Toyota Motor Corp. employees in Canada.

Lewenza said Chrysler executives undermined his union when they warned its Canadian employees last week that the company won't survive if the workers doesn't accept deeper concessions.

Chrysler Chief Executive Robert Nardelli and Chrysler President Tom LaSorda said Friday in a letter to employees that it has to get its labor costs at Chrysler Canada down from 76 Canadian dollars ($62.68) per hour to Toyota Motor Corp.'s Canadian labor rate of about 57 Canadian dollars ($47) per hour.

The letter follows comments by Canada's industry minister calling on the union to cut costs by $19 an hour. Lewenza called it a unilateral number and said they wouldn't deal with that.

Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne has said the Italian automaker will walk away from a nonbinding agreement to take a 20 percent stake in Chrysler and share its small car technology unless the U.S. automaker's unions agree to major cost cuts.

Chrysler, which is living on in loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments, has to take on a partner and gain concessions from unions and debtholders by April 30, or the Canadian governments and the Obama administration will stop lending it money.

Fiat is the only suitor that has emerged, and it's likely that no bankruptcy financing will be available, so Chrysler would have little choice but to be liquidated.

The federal Canadian government and Ontario provincial government have already given Chrysler Canada 750 million Canadian dollars ($618 million) of a $1 billion ($825 million) Canadian loan and have promised further support if a viable plan is put forward by April 30.

The Canadian government has said Chrysler and GM must present plans that maintain Canada's 20 percent share of the companies' production. The auto industry directly employs more than 150,000 Canadians plus another 340,000 Canadians indirectly.

Chrysler employs 8,500 Canadian Auto Workers.

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