January 19, 2009

Lower auto wages a must for Canada bailout

Canada's $4 billion bailout for Chrysler and General Motors is contingent on lowering wages to the levels of U.S. Japanese autoworkers, a federal minister said.

In an Ottawa interview with the Globe and Mail Sunday, Industry Minister Tony Clement said the offer made before Christmas is very similar to the $17 billion U.S. bailout.

We cannot compete -- and we cannot have the industry survive here -- if we're not cost-competitive, Clement told the newspaper. If they wish to meet the conditions by Feb. 20, they have to have filed a plan of action for Canada which includes getting labor costs in line with the U.S.

When the Canadian dollar, or loonie, is at par with the U.S. dollar, Canadian autoworkers are paid $67 per hour in wages and benefits but that drops to $53.60 when the loonie is trading at 80 cents, as is the case now, the Canadian Auto Workers union has said.

U.S. auto company workers earn an average of about $58 an hour in wages and benefits, while workers at Toyota's Kentucky plant earn about $49 an hour in wages and benefits, the report said.