Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) members at the GM-Suzuki CAMI joint venture vehicle assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario have ratified a new contract by nearly two thirds.

Production workers approved the contract by 61%, while Skilled Trades workers ratified the deal by 89%, the CAW said in a statement.

The new three year agreement is similar to those reached at both Chrysler and General Motors last spring in that it freezes wages and pensions, trims benefits, introduces a monthly health care contribution and reduces break times.

The agreement also reduces the traditional two year lag between CAMI and General Motors and puts in place base wage parity with GM, for the first time. Much of the agreement will come into effect in September 2010, following the expiration of the existing agreement.

A crucial part was GM’s commitment to replace the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain at CAMI in 2014, said CAW president Ken Lewenza.

“While these contract changes are difficult for our members, I hope they will help usher in a decade of prosperity for the CAMI facility, which will guarantee good jobs well into the future.”

“Our members recognised the importance of long term stability, and although no-one wanted these contract changes, I believe stability is what we achieved with this new agreement,” added CAMI chairman Mike Van Boekel.

GM Canada president Arturo Elias said: “The new agreement is very positive for CAMI’s future.”

The CAW said it was still in negotiations with Ford  though, as of last week, the automaker “was still refusing to make a commitment to a manufacturing footprint, as was accomplished at Chrysler, General Motors and now CAMI”.

Ford has an engine plant at Windsor, across the border from Detroit, and a vehicle assembly plant in Oakville, south west of Toronto, both in Ontario, Canada’s auto-making province. It employs 5,670 workers at both plants, according to its website.

“This agreement with CAMI should serve as model for our negotiations with Ford, who must understand that only with a fair commitment to maintaining manufacturing in Canada can painful contract changes be possible,” the CAW added.