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Strike deadline looms as GM, Canada union auto talks continue

TORONTO, Sept 18 Contract negotiations between Canada's Unifor union and General Motors Co were going around the clock, the labor group said on Sunday ahead of a Monday night strike deadline at some of the automaker's Canadian plants.

The two sides have been divided over union demands that the U.S.-based carmaker commit to new vehicle models at its Oshawa, Ontario, plant.

In its update on Sunday afternoon, Unifor did not give any indication of the state of the talks, noting only that its focus on "product allocation and investment" had not changed.

GM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The four-year contract covering the workers of GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Co in the province of Ontario expires on Monday. The union chose GM as its strike target for contract talks, with any deal setting the pattern for the next round of talks with the other manufacturers.

Contract talks could save 2,500 jobs at GM's Oshawa car assembly or take the plant one step closer to closure.

Canada has been struggling to get new investment from automakers in its once-thriving car industry, losing out to the Southern United States and lower-cost Mexico.

Between 2001 and 2013, some 14,300 jobs were lost in vehicle manufacturing in Canada, according to the Automotive Policy Research Center in Hamilton, Ontario.

The automaker was already on the verge of shutting one of two assembly lines at its Oshawa plant, with several vehicles either produced in another country or expected to move in 2017.

There are no obvious products that would go into the Oshawa plant, and the automaker said previously it would only make future product decisions after a labor deal.

Still, the union has said it will not sign without a vehicle commitment, calling it pivotal for the future of Canada's auto industry. Pensions and wages are also on the table.

Unifor President Jerry Dias said on Saturday morning he was aware of the looming strike deadline. Without a deal, the union's 3,900 GM members would legally be considered on strike at 12 a.m. (0400 GMT) on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Ethan Lou in Toronto; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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