TORONTO, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- The Canadian Auto Workers union reached a tentative three-year contract with General Motors Corp. just hours before a midnight Tuesday strike deadline. The pact, which covers 18,674 workers, raises hourly wages 3 percent this year and in 2003 and 2 percent in 2004.
Hourly assembly workers also received a $632 signing bonus, 3 1/2 additional paid vacation days each year, improved health care benefits and a commitment from GM to spend $500 million by 2005 to bring more jobs to Canada. An average CAW-covered autoworker makes about $17 an hour.
Rank-and-file union members will hold ratification votes this weekend.
"We're very, very proud of this agreement," said CAW President Basil Hargrove. "It's good for General Motors. It's good for Ontario. And it's good for Canada." Hargrove will announce Monday the union's next target, either Ford or Chrysler. The GM contract is expected to set a pattern for bargaining.
All Big Three auto companies have cut back their workforces in Canada since the last contract was signed in 1999 reducing union membership rolls by about 5,000 to 44,000.
Ford has announced plans to close a truck plant near Toronto late next year or in early 2004 eliminating about 1,400 jobs. The union has said it will pressure Ford and Chrysler to protect jobs in Canada, where the automakers assemble many full-sized pickups, vans and sport-utility vehicles.
"GM is operating in a intensely competitive North American market. Reaching an agreement prior to the deadline allows us to build momentum in the market," said Al Green, GM's chief bargainer.
U.S. automakers open talks with the United Auto Workers next year on contracts covering more than 300,000 employees.