As negotiations for concessions start at reeling General Motors and Chry­sler, the Canadian Auto Workers says workers at assembly plants in Canada hold a labour cost edge over their union and non-union counterparts in the United States.

The CAW says better productivity here gives Canadian workers a strong overall advantage.

The CAW says its members earn an average of $67 an hour in wages and benefits. That translates into about $53 US an hour because of a falling Canadian currency. Hourly wages and benefits at unionized assembly plants in the U.S. are about $60, while labour costs are $49 at non-unionized plants in the U.S.

CAW economist Jim Stanford said higher productivity here translates to the equivalent of a $5-an-hour edge over unionized assembly operations in the U.S. and $16 at non-union plants south of the border.

The CAW’s position contrasts sharply with the view of some industry watchers that labour costs at GM and Chrysler here are $15 to $25 an hour higher than non-unionized foreign-based producers in the U.S.

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