February 28, 2024

Automakers and U.A.W. Are Still Talking

The U.A.W. and Chrysler also agreed to extend their contract, though the pace of talks with Chrysler has slowed while the focus shifts to G.M.

Chrysler’s chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, criticized the U.A.W.’s president, Bob King, for failing to show up at the bargaining table Wednesday as expected. Mr. Marchionne had left the Frankfurt auto show in Germany early, and said he arrived in Detroit expecting to finalize a deal.

With regard to G.M., top U.A.W. officials said in an update to workers posted online by several union locals that they were “hopeful that an agreement can be reached soon.”

“While we have made significant progress, we have not been able to secure a new agreement that we would recommend for ratification,” the message said.

A G.M. spokeswoman confirmed that officials were back in negotiations as of 10 a.m. Thursday.

Mr. Marchionne sent the letter to Mr. King after the union leader spent the day huddled in contract talks with General Motors rather than Chrysler. A copy of the letter was obtained from sources close to the negotiations.

“I flew back from the Frankfurt Motor Show late last night to be here today to finalize our dialogue that has been started by our teams but that required your presence and mine to conclude,” Mr. Marchionne wrote. “You unfortunately could not be here, I am told, due to competing engagements.”

Mr. Marchionne went on to say that he and Mr. King “failed” employees by not concluding the months-long negotiations before the current contract expired.

“I am willing to extend the contract by an additional week to allow closure on all outstanding matters,” Mr. Marchionne wrote.

Workers for both companies had been anxiously awaiting word of a settlement, and even U.A.W. officials at several plants said they were being kept in the dark about the pace and nature of the discussions.

“We are confident that we can reach an agreement that will meet many of the goals we set at the beginning of negotiations,” Joe Ashton, a U.A.W. vice president in charge of negotiations with G.M., wrote in a message to workers Wednesday.

Any agreements must be approved by the U.A.W.’s local leaders and then ratified by the rank-and-file membership.

Labor experts expect the companies to offer workers signing bonuses of at least $5,000 to improve the chances of ratification without permanently increasing labor costs.

Workers at all three companies received a $3,000 signing bonus in 2007. Their wages have not increased since 2003.

Talks with the Ford Motor Company are not as far along as the negotiations with G.M. and Chrysler.

On Tuesday, Ford and the union agreed to extend their contract indefinitely, at least temporarily putting off the possibility that a strike could be called. The union can end the extension with three days’ notice, and it might do so when a deal is close to pressure the company to settle.

Talks with all three companies lacked much of the acrimony that has defined past rounds of bargaining in the auto industry. Union leaders have vowed to help keep the carmakers competitive while also seeking ways for workers to be rewarded as the auto industry turns around.

Workers at G.M. and Chrysler are barred from striking over wage and benefit disputes through 2015, a provision they were required to approve when the companies received federal loans as they went through bankruptcy protection in 2009. Their only recourse in the case of an impasse is binding arbitration, a somewhat unpredictable process that both sides have said they want to avoid.

A major theme for the union during these talks has been regaining much of what workers gave up to keep their employers from collapsing under the weight of heavy debt and plummeting sales. But the union also wants to add jobs in the United States after suffering years of wrenching cutbacks at the three carmakers.

Mr. King, the U.A.W. president, has said U.A.W. members each ceded $7,000 to $30,000 worth of pay and benefits since 2005. In 2007, the union agreed to create a two-tier wage system that allowed the carmakers to cut costs by hiring new workers at about half the pay of other workers.

Many in the U.A.W. oppose the two-tier system, but Mr. King has said it is a way for the companies to become more competitive without cutting pay for existing workers and helps create jobs. Only about 4,000 of the 112,000 workers at G.M., Ford and Chrysler earn second-tier wages currently, but the companies hope to hire more people at the lower pay scale as older workers retire, further reducing their labor costs.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=02d123258db051cd5eeda29c13c155dc

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