The Canadian Auto Workers union will strike against DaimlerChrysler if no contract deal is reached by next Tuesday, union leader Buzz Hargrove said Wednesday.
"I'm not very optimistic at this point," Hargrove told The Canadian Press in an interview after announcing that DaimlerChrysler was the next target in this year's auto contract talks. "The big thing is the demand on jobs that they have, on outsourcing our jobs ... to anywhere in the world that can do it cheaper."

AP noted that the latest negotiations come after the autoworkers signed a deal with Ford Canada on Monday, which it described as a 'grim' agreement that will see 1,100 fewer jobs in Ontario and the shutdown of one Ford factory by the end of a three-year labour contract.

Outsourcing is a major issue between the union and DaimlerChrysler, which wants to spin off some of its Canadian production to save costs in an increasingly competitive North American auto industry. DaimlerChrysler operates assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton, northwest of Toronto, as well as parts plants in Windsor.

Hargrove said that in addition to outsourcing, some of the potential job losses would come from DaimlerChrysler's desire to copy Toyota Motor Corp.'s production method, known as "kaizen," or continuous improvement.

"It's a structural change, a cultural change," said CAW chairman Ken Lewenza. "They would like to introduce the Toyota process of building products, which is in smaller teams, empower the workers, supposedly give the workers more responsibility to make decisions.

"We're very nervous about it," Lewenza said. "We're not worried about cultural shifts. We're worried about jobs."

Mark Gendregske, DaimlerChrysler Canada Vice President of Human Resources said in a statement released Wednesday: "DaimlerChrysler Canada's bargaining team is continuing its negotiations with the CAW. We have a productive relationship with the CAW and their Chrysler bargaining team and, although much hard work needs to be done, we are optimistic we can find common ground."

The company's current collective agreement will expire at 11:59 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, September 20. DaimlerChrysler Canada has more than 10,600 represented workers at its various Canadian facilities, primarily in Brampton, Etobicoke and Windsor, Ontario.

Hargrove said he expects the latest talks, which got under way in a Toronto hotel on Wednesday afternoon, to be "tough."

"Chrysler made it very clear to us when we were doing our probing, to try to find out where we could get the best agreement on our issues without a strike, that ... if we didn't accept their demands on outsourcing and (plant) closure that we could not get an agreement with them and they would force the dispute," Hargrove said.

"So we're going to give them the opportunity now to move off of that and try to get a settlement even before the 20th, but failing that there will be a strike," he said.