(Reuters) — The Canadian Auto Workers union said on Wednesday it may break with tradition and continue contract talks with all three Detroit automakers simultaneously, instead of targeting one of them to tackle first to set a bargaining pattern for the others.
The union is currently meeting with the Canadian management of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler in separate talks at a Toronto hotel.
"If we're making progress, we won't even talk about a target company," said Canadian Auto Workers national president Ken Lewenza. "I want to stay optimistic that we can get a deal."
If the simultaneous talks are not making progress, Lewenza said he will choose a target. But he denied media reports that he could wait to close to Sept. 16 to make that call.
He said the decision would likely come at least five days before all three contracts expire on Sept. 17 at 11:59 p.m. The union can strike any time after that.
In the past, the union has gone on strike more often at the target company than at the two that follow.
In the United States, the United Auto Workers said early in its 2011 contract talks with the Detroit automakers that it would seek to negotiate with all three companies simultaneously, but it ultimately settled on General Motors as its first target.
Canadian contract talks are expected to be tough, as companies seek to cut labour costs they say are the highest in the world, and the union argues that workers who helped keep the companies afloat during the financial crisis should share in the rewards of a return to profitability.