The Canadian Auto Workers union said Thursday that it will try to negotiate a master contract with Ford Motor Co. by next week and then ask other U.S. automakers to match those terms.
CAW President Buzz Hargrove said the union picked Ford because it has always had a good relationship with the company.
"We've had one strike in the last 30 years with Ford," Hargrove said. "It shows that they work a lot harder to get something that is mutually acceptable."
If the union can't negotiate a contract with Ford by midday Tuesday, it will try to negotiate an agreement with DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, Hargrove said. General Motors Corp. also will be asked to match the deal negotiated by the union and the target automaker.
The talks will be a good measure of what's to come in 2007, when the United Auto Workers union negotiates its new contracts with the Big Three.
Hargrove said the CAW didn't choose DaimlerChrysler or GM because he thinks a strike is virtually inevitable with them. He also said that the UAW talks factored into why it didn't choose GM.
"It was pretty clear that they couldn't do anything by saying we led the way in improving wages, pensions and job security for people in a time when they were going the other way in the U.S.," Hargrove said.
Canadian auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers said the CAW's decision shocked most analysts, who expected the union to choose DaimlerChrysler.
"Ford, by far, is in the worse shape of the three unionized [automakers], so whatever you can get out of them would seem an automatic at the other two," he said.
The CAW could threaten a shutdown of Ford's Windsor, Ontario, engine operations, which feed many of Ford's U.S. factories.
Stacey Allerton Firth, the lead negotiator for Ford Motor Co. of Canada, said the CAW's Tuesday deadline is workable.
"We have a lot of tough issues that we need to get through over the next several days, but that being said, I'm confident," she said.
Negotiations with all three automakers began in July. Their three-year labor contracts with the CAW expire Sept. 20, and the CAW could strike Ford or Chrysler if agreements aren't reached.