After telling its members to prepare for strike action ahead of the expiration of its contract agreements with the Detroit Three, the pace of negotiations has picked up amid talk of concessions from the Canadian Auto Workers union.

Reports today suggest that the CAW has offered GM, Ford and Chrysler some concessions on wages and pensions for new hires.

Reuters reported that CAW National Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy said the union has proposed a lower starting wage for new hires, and a longer 'earn-in', the time it takes to reach the top of the pay scale alongside incumbents. New workers would still eventually reach the same pay as existing employees.

"The important thing is that over time they would grow into the prevailing rate, so that we wouldn't have a permanent two-tier system," Kennedy told Reuters.

The length of time of the 'earn-in' could be a significant bargaining point, with suggestions that it could be as long as ten years, helping to keep labour costs down.

The Globe and Mail also reported today that the CAW has laid out a proposal to cut wages for new employees at the Canadian operations of GM, Ford and Chrysler.

The report said that the CAW would make the concession in return for new investments to Canadian operations.

Earlier this week, the CAW told its 20,000 members at GM, Ford and Chrysler to prepare for a strike next week. The union's contract ends at 11:59 pm on Monday, September 17. Seasoned observers of such negotiations expect to see some brinkmanship as the click ticks down.

The CAW, which began negotiations with the Detroit Three in August, is under pressure to accept concessions similar to those accepted by the UAW in the US. An additional factor for Canada is the rising value of the Canadian dollar, which has contributed to higher Canadian labor costs.

Last week, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told the Toronto Globe and Mail that his company would consider pulling out of Canada if the CAW doesn't bring its costs in line with the UAW.

Executives at GM and Ford have also threatened to reduce future Canadian plant investments if the union doesn't accept concessions.