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GM gets tough in talks with the CAW

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Link: http://www.detnews.com/2005/autosinsider/0.../C01-306262.htm

GM gets tough in talks with the CAW

General Motors takes a harder line on Canada labor costs than its rivals in contract negotiations.

General Motors Corp. is taking a harder stance than its U.S. rivals in negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers as the union prepares to pick a target for the talks, CAW President Basil "Buzz" Hargrove said.

"GM is much tougher on saying we can't add costs, we can't do this, we can't do that," Hargrove said. "You have to read all of this as a message. It would appear they're looking for a fight."

GM wants a pact that doesn't add to labor costs in Canada, company spokesman Stew Low said. "Given the circumstances we're in, it's a necessary objective," he said. "We're not looking for a fight." Hurt by weak SUV demand and high costs, GM's North American unit has become unprofitable this year.

On Thursday, the union will select GM, Ford Motor Co. or DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group as the target company for this year's negotiations. Talks then will intensify between the selected company, with a Sept. 20 strike deadline. The CAW uses terms of a pact with the target company as a blueprint for the other two.

Hargrove said GM's stance doesn't make the company more or less likely to be picked as target. GM was the target in 2002.

In an interview with The Detroit News, Hargrove said GM, Ford and Chrysler have made similar offers.

"All three companies must be talking with one another," Hargrove said. "But rhetoric with GM is different." Hargrove said the union still wants to settle without a strike.

"We are even willing to settle early with the right deal to show the world we can compete," he said.

The automakers have "shared a lot more information with us" about their Canadian operations than in previous talks, said Hargrove.

"GM has to take a tougher line," said auto analyst Erich Merkle at consulting firm IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids. "They've been trying to get concessions out of the UAW. It's not going to go over well if they cave in to the CAW."

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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