The Canadian Auto Workers union and Chrysler have suspended official negotiations as the cash-strapped automaker focuses its efforts on working out a critical alliance with Italian automaker Fiat.

CAW president Ken Lewenza said Thursday he believes Chrysler is focusing on the Fiat discussions because labour talks are “secondary” to the partnership, which many say is essential to Chrysler’s survival.

“It’s clear that if the Fiat merger doesn’t come together then all the rest, quite frankly, is secondary,” Lewenza said in an interview. The union and the company are still talking, but face-to-face meetings have been suspended.

A partnership with Fiat would give Chrysler access to smaller car technology the Detroit-based auto company currently lacks.

No parts, no work
• A parts shortage forced Chrysler to cancel Thursday afternoon shifts at its minivan plant in Windsor and its car plant in Brampton. CAW Local 444 president Rick Laporte said Chrysler is trying to shift production of the needed parts to its own facility in west-end Toronto.

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