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CAW to join network of unions dealing with Chrysler-Fiat merge

June 23, 2011

WINDSOR, Ont. -- The Canadian Auto Workers will be part of a global network of unions dealing with Chrysler Group LLC and Fiat SpA as the two companies integrate, says president Ken Lewenza.

The CAW did not attend an introductory meeting in Italy this week between the United Auto Workers and Fiat unions but is committed to being involved, he said Thursday.

“What (UAW president) Bob King was doing in Italy was what we were clearly mandated to to last January through International Metalworkers’ Federation representing the autoworkers,” Lewenza said.

Auto unions from around the world met in Detroit in January and agreed to form alliances to exchange information and encourage solidarity.

The UAW, which represents U.S. autoworkers, will join with other labour unions in about 10 other countries, including Italy and Canada, where Fiat or Chrysler have production plants, Kings said in a conference call with reporters.

On Wednesday, the new group agreed on a set of principles that includes the freedom of workers to organize in unions to protect the rights of workers around the world, including children and women workers.

But also, King said, the group of unions will work to foster successful companies.

The group will not collectively bargain with the companies, he said.

The UAW and Fiat unions will send a letter to Sergio Marchionne, the chief executive of Chrysler and Fiat, asking him to acknowledge the coalition.

Lewenza, who gives Marchionne credit for turning around Chrysler’s fortunes, said he can’t see the CEO opposing the unions’ approach.

“There’s not too many CEOs who would resist communications with the labour movement today,” Lewenza said. “I can tell you, Mr. Marchionne challenges the unions as much as his management team.... The interaction globally between workers, I think, makes great sense and I don’t think he’d oppose it at all.”

Similar global union networks were established at Ford two years ago and General Motors several months ago. However, King said Ford and GM have not formally recognized the coalitions.

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