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Sterling strike talks stall; no bargaining planned
ST. THOMAS, Ont. -- Sterling's St. Thomas truck plant remains closed for a second week in the middle of one of the busiest truck sales periods in history. Truck chassis are still not rolling down assembly lines at the manufacturing plant as negotiations between the Canadian Auto Workers, representing 2,000 workers, and management went nowhere late last week. Senior CAW officials told the Toronto Star that while the two sides are in contact with each other, no new formal talks have been scheduled.

The strike by 2000 Sterling workers heads into week 2
Workers walked off the job March 10, demanding higher wages, more time off, pension and benefits. Under the old contract, production workers earned about $26.00 an hour, while skilled tradespeople were paid just over $31.00. The union also wants guarantees the truckmaker -- whose parent company is Portland-based Freightliner LLC -- won't shift production of the Sterling HX heavy-duty truck and the Acterra medium-duty to other facilities in the U.S. or Mexico during the industry downturn expected after January '07. Before the labour conflict the plant was producing about 114 trucks a day -- about 35 a day more than in 2003, when the St. Thomas workers last went on strike. The plant was a non-union shop until October 2002. Analysts predict that 2006 will be a record-breaking year for North American truck sales as carriers are pre-buying current models to avoid EPA-mandated equipment that comes into effect Jan. '07. The low emissions engines will jack up the price per truck by as much as $10,000. Customers are also skeptical of the fuel economy performance and availability of ultra-low sulfur diesel that must be used with those engines. January and February were record-setting months for class 8 sales, while medium-duty sales were slightly up from last year. Some economists predict that OEMs could shatter the previous sales record by selling up to 350,000 trucks this year, before a major downturn in 2007. Meanwhile, about 550 unionized workers at the Accuride plant have approved a tentative contract deal that averted a separate strike at the auto parts manufacturer. The CAW Local 27 said the three-year deal would give the workers a two percent wage increase. The plant, near London, Ont., manufactures steel wheels for light, medium and heavy commercial vehicles. -- with files from the Toronto Star
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