TORONTO - After negotiating three multiyear contracts with the Big 3 automakers in his 10 years as president of the Canadian Auto Workers, Buzz Hargrove could be excused for seeing this contract year as just one more of the same.
He doesn't. It isn't.
"I don't think this one's going to be easy," Hargrove said during a recent interview here. "There are dynamics in the industry that we've just never seen before."
Those dynamics are pretty bleak. Nearly 4,000 of the union's autoworker members already are on layoff, and all three automakers have plans to close plants in Canada with the loss of 4,500 more jobs.
Only 47,000 of the CAW's 260,000 members are autoworkers. But their higher wages mean that autoworkers still account for 60 percent of the union's revenue, Hargrove said.
The job losses come against the backdrop of steadily declining Canadian production. Output, which peaked at 3.05 million units in 1999, slumped to 2.53 million last year. It is projected to slip to 2.51 million this year. But the production numbers, discouraging as they are, understate the impact on the CAW. That's because the cutbacks are limited to the Big 3, while Honda and Toyota, whose workers have spurned the CAW, are expanding capacity and output in Canada.