The Canadian Auto Workers struck a tentative labour deal with Ford and extended collective bargaining talks with Chrysler and General Motors Monday night, temporarily averting a strike that would have sent nearly 21,000 workers to the picket lines Tuesday morning.

The union said late Monday it will continue talks with Chrysler and GM as long as progress is being made. If the talks break down, the CAW will give a 24-hour strike notice.

The union reached a tentative, four-year labour agreement with Ford earlier in the day.

The contract will run through September 2016 and is expected to create at least 600 new positions at Ford Canada, the majority of them at the company’s Oakville, Ont. plant, CAW president Ken Lewenza said.

The CAW’s “first priority” is to bring back to work many of the 800 or so Ford employees who were laid off throughout Ontario, including in Windsor and St. Thomas, he said.

The labour deal does not include any base wage increases, but will give each employee lump sum payments of $2,000 in the second, third and fourth years of the contract to cover cost-of-living increases. There will also be a $3,000 ratification bonus.

"It's a damn good deal in these economic times," Lewenza said. “It is a damn good deal.”

A Ford Canada spokesperson told The Canadian Press the tentative agreement “offers unique-to-Canada solutions that will improve the competitiveness of the Canadian operations while providing employees the opportunity to earn a good living.”

The CAW is asking Chrysler and GM to accept the Ford deal as a pattern settlement. The two companies have said they need time to review the details, Lewenza said.

“Patter bargaining works,” he told reporters Monday night. He said the union’s tough stance is “not about egos” or “shutting down an operation.”

Rather, the CAW is trying to protect jobs at a time when the auto industry is bouncing back from a crippling recession, Lewenza said.

The union’sproposal to lower wages for new hires to 60 per cent of full pay is part of the Ford deal. Those employees will be able to reach full pay after working for 10 years.

The automakers wanted to cut the salaries permanently for new hires, something the CAW refused to accept.

“Today’s autoworkers, over the last 50 years, have bargained hourly rates of about $34 an hour,” Lewenza said earlier Monday. “They would like to see autoworkers go no higher than $24 an hour over the life of the collective bargaining agreement.”

Lewenza later saidgiving up base wage increases in the Ford agreement is “a disappointment to our members, but the reality is, quite frankly, that was not achievable and it was not in the cards.”

Chrysler told The Canadian Press on Sunday that it was “very concerned” that Ford was leading the negotiations because it had a smaller stake in Canada, and therefore had less to lose.

Four per cent of Ford’s global assembly is based in Canada, compared to nine per cent for GM and 20 per cent for Chrysler.

General Motors wouldn’t comment on CAW’s deal with Ford, but said it was committed to reaching an agreement “that addresses the competitive needs of GM Canada."

Chrysler also didn’t comment on the Ford deal Monday.

The federal and provincial government provided about $13 billion to GM and Chrysler during the financial crisis.

With files from The Canadian Press