“The most painful time in our union is when our rank and file members have to go home and tell their families they’ve lost their job,” said Lewenza. “As tough as the economy may be we will not abandon workers who lose their jobs.” He also lamented the loss of many talented top local CAW leadership who have lost their jobs because of the economic downturn and who are leaving the union after many years of tireless service to working people and the CAW.

Far from being “inflexible” and “intransigent,” the CAW has been pro-active, creative, and constructive in our response to the financial crisis which has enveloped our industry. In May 2008 we negotiated a forward-looking contract, months ahead of the contract deadline, which saved the industry $300 million per year. Then this March, following government instructions that we had to be “part of the solution,” we negotiated (for the second time in ten months) the contract all over again. We settled with GM on provisions which will reduce active labour costs by several dollars per hour, and will eliminate a billion dollars of so-called “legacy costs.” GM itself confirmed that this contract meets the goal of preserving Canada’s investment advantage. Our labour costs will continue to be lower than average of all the suppliers selling into the North American market. On top of that, our productivity is consistently superior.