Nicolas Van Praet, National Post
Canadian Auto Workers union president Ken Lewenza yesterday rejected calls for his members to make concessions as part of any taxpayer-funded rescue of Detroit's car manufacturers, saying labour did not create the crisis now threatening General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC with collapse.
Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers union.
His comments came as U. S. senators began debating the merits of a US$25-billion emergency loans package for Detroit. The White House said the deal does not have sufficient political support to succeed.
In Ottawa, a senior government official said Stephen Harper's Conservative government has not made any decision on offering parallel aid.
"We don't see this as us being the problem," Mr. Lewenza said, adding he would "absolutely not" accept any further cuts after losing tens of thousands of jobs in recent years. "We've suffered our share of pain."
"It's easy to point fingers and look for a scapegoat, but the reality is more subtle and more complex" than blaming labour, said CAW economist Jim Stanford.
Mr. Stanford said newly signed contracts between the union and the Canadian arms of the Detroit automakers include several unprecedented givebacks, such as an 18-month suspension in cost-of-living increases.
A lack of policy attention from governments in both Canada and the United States have contributed to Detroit's collapse as much as anything else, he said.
"In Japan and Germany and Korea and now China, governments proactively nurture and support high-value export industries like autos. In North America, for the last two decades, we haven't bothered."
The CAW's defiant stance runs counter to the argument many North American lawmakers and business leaders are making: That all stakeholders, including workers and management, should give up something to secure an emergency aid package, as they did during the Chrysler bailout in 1979.
The CAW's position also threatens to undermine attempts by the Canadian and Ontario governments to offer aid packages to the Detroitbased automakers to protect thousands of auto jobs here.