CAW Endorses Chrysler-Fiat Partnership, Commends Government Support for Auto

April 30, 2009, 3:27 PM EST

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The Canadian Auto Workers union is optimistic that today's restructuring decisions regarding Chrysler represent the beginning of a brighter future for the new company.

"It is shocking that a company with Chrysler's stature and history should be forced into bankruptcy protection," said CAW President Ken Lewenza.  "But this development is just one part of a bigger process that we hope will reposition the company for recovery and future success."

It is not yet clear whether the developments in the U.S. will cause Chrysler to seek CCAA protection here in Canada.

Lewenza urged his members at Chrysler to remain calm, and to "keep doing what you do best: building high-quality vehicles, more productively than anyone else in the world."

The CAW recently reached a new cost-saving collective agreement with Chrysler, and company officials have committed that the deal will remain intact even if Chrysler ends up in bankruptcy protection.

Lewenza expressed outrage that Chrysler's Chapter 11 filing is being forced as a result of the "greed and myopia" of financial interests. "It is infuriating that a couple of hedge funds caused this to happen," he said.  "After all, it was financial speculators, not auto workers, who created this crisis in the first place.  And now they are the ones pulling the plug."

Lewenza endorsed the proposed partnership between Chrysler and Fiat.  He referred to his face-to-face meeting earlier this week with Mr. Sergio Marchionne, Fiat's CEO.  "He is a talented, fair person, and I look forward to working with him.  Canada has been very good to Chrysler over the years, and we will be very good to Fiat, too," Lewenza said.

Lewenza commended the Canadian and Ontario governments for their efforts to safeguard Chrysler's presence here.  "By participating in the restructuring, and confirming Chrysler's continuing footprint here, our governments are helping to ensure that Canadians capture a fair share of the benefits once the company turns around in the future."

Finally, Lewenza also stressed the need to develop a broader national auto strategy to reinforce the industry's underlying fundamentals in the future.  "It's essential to help the industry survive the side-effects of the global financial crisis," he said.  "But we also need a long-term vision to build this industry well into the future, one that addresses key challenges like infrastructure, the environment, and trade imbalances."  Lewenza called on the federal government to recommit to the work of the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council, the multi-stakeholder body which has been developing a long-run industrial policy for the automotive sector.

Chrysler employs more than 8000 CAW members at four facilities in Canada.  The union estimates that Chrysler accounts for a total of close to 70,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada, $3 billion per year in personal incomes, and over $1 billion per year in government tax revenues.

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