The Canadian Auto Workers union has begun talks with Chrysler in Toronto.
“Getting to the bargaining table with Chrysler has taken longer than expected,” said CAW president Ken Lewenza.
“But the CAW fully expects to get the process back on track and work towards reaching an agreement with Chrysler that will secure jobs here in Canada.”
Both Chrysler and General Motors must reach cost cutting agreements with all stakeholders before 31 March, as required by the Ontario and federal government to qualify for financial support.
The CAW represents approximately 8,000 workers at Chrysler in Brampton, Windsor and Etobicoke.
CAW and General Motors reached a new agreement on 8 March and that was ratified by 10,000 workers on 11 March.
Chrysler has threatened to leave Canada it cannot get nearly C$20 ($16) an hour in wage and benefit concessions from the union, as well as a guarantee on $2.3 billion in loans from Canadian governments and a break on a tax dispute.
Chrysler has also said it could not accept the same labour deal the CAW struck with GM Canada because it would not provide even half the savings it needs.
The union, for its part, said it would not break the pattern established in the GM deal, but was confident it would find common ground with Chrysler.
“We’re optimistic,” said Jerry Dias, an assistant to CAW President Ken Lewenza, told Reuters . “We understand what’s at stake and so does Chrysler, so at the end of the day… we’ve got to get this thing done.”
Chrysler said: “We look forward to a constructive dialogue with the CAW as we enter this important phase of our discussions.”
Dias told the news agency that, in every round of bargaining, the auto companies say they will not accept a pattern settlement, but they always end up finding a compromise with the union.
“We’re not going to reduce costs with one group that’s going to negatively impact the other, so that’s why we do pattern bargaining,” he said. “Frankly, (the companies) wouldn’t have it any other way, either.”