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“Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” for UAW

Union leaders release formal GM contract details.

by on Sep.20, 2011

GM CEO Dan Akerson and UAW President Bob King shaking hands at the start of the latest round of contract talks, in July.

It was all about “jobs, jobs, jobs” for United Auto Workers Union negotiators as they hammered out their new 4-year contract with General Motors, union leaders said today as they revealed the specific details of the settlement.

But the agreement also contains some significant economic improvements – especially for newly-hired “second-tier” employees who have been earning about half as much as veteran GM workers.

The new contract now goes to a vote by GM’s 64,000 U.S. hourly employees – even as union bargainers resume pick up talks with Chrysler and Ford Motor Co.

“The basis that we went into the agreement with was jobs, jobs, jobs and I think that is what we came out of this agreement with,” said UAW Vice President Joe Ashton.

As first reported over the weekend, under the new contract, GM has agreed to add new products at four plants in Michigan, Tennessee and Missouri.  That should result in the addition of 6,400 UAW jobs.

And, by agreeing to steps that will further enhance GM’s productivity, additional jobs could be created, as well, according to union and company sources.

On the financial side, the UAW won workers a $5,000 signing bonus.  And while the old cost-of-living allowances were not revived there is the potential for up to $4,000 in “inflation protection” during the life of the agreement.

Significantly, the UAW’s profit-sharing formula was enhanced and would have earned each worker $5,000 for 2010, up from the actual $4,300 payout.

One of the toughest battles for bargainers was over the two-tier wage structure long opposed by the UAW but approved as part of a raft of concessions in 2007.  Entry-level workers currently earn between $14 and $16 in wages and benefits.  Over the life of the 4-year contract that will be increased by $3 an hour.  And second-tier workers will get improved medical care, as well.

“Getting that wage up over $19 an hour was very important to us,” said Ashton.

Some workers are still expressing frustration that the two-tier system wasn’t eliminated entirely, but that is not expected to scuttle the ratification vote on the new GM contract, which is expected to stretch out over the next 10 days.

Even before then the union will resume bargaining with Detroit’s other two automakers, said UAW President Bob King, though he said the union has yet to decide which will be the initial focus as Auto Workers aim to finish this year’s negotiations.

GM, UAW Reach Late Night Deal; Chrysler Next?

Workers make modest but significant gains.

by on Sep.17, 2011

GM CEO Dan Akerson and UAW President Bob King shaking hands at the start of the latest round of contract talks, in July.

The United Auto Workers Union and General Motors said Friday they had reached agreement on a new labor contract late Friday night that includes a new profit-sharing formula and other modest gains for workers – but which also appears to promise improvements for the automaker.

Details of the settlement were being withheld, pending ratification meetings with local union leaders. The UAW’s existing contract with the GM expired Wednesday but the union was barred from striking under the terms of the $49.5 billion federal bailout of GM in 2009.

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“We are proud of this tentative agreement,” declared UAW President Bob King.

The UAW will now have to work out settlements with both Chrysler and Ford.  Talks with the latter maker were put on hold earlier in the week.  A settlement with Chrysler seemed imminent, several days ago, before a clash between union President Bob King and the maker’s CEO Sergio Marchionne became public.


Commentary: Will Common Sense Prevail at the Auto Talks?

Maybe not, if the dust-up at Chrysler is any indication.

by on Sep.16, 2011

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

I have been hoping that the United Auto Workers and the Detroit car companies would reach quick, amicable agreements in their current round of contract negotiations.  Even though Chrysler and GM – where the union seems to be initially focusing its attention – can not be struck under terms of their 2009 federal bailouts, no one needs the drama of an impasse.

But that may be precisely what we’ve got.  As first reported earlier this week, leaders of the United Auto Workers Union have put on hold talks at Ford, where a quick settlement seemed unlikely.

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But more worrisome, UAW Pres. Bob King appears to have created a real dust-up by missing a key appointment with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne – who canceled a European meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to return to Detroit. A letter from Marchionne suggests that the UAW chief only hurt his workers in the process.

It is, to my mind, one more example of the union’s increasingly questionable way of doing business, especially in a recession, especially in the Age of Wal-Mart.  Simply stated, no one gives a damn about organized labor’s notion of “solidarity,” which is why Wal-Mart remains the world’s largest retailer.


Are Ford and the UAW Heading for Confrontation?

Union tallying strike vote as contract deadline nears.

by on Aug.25, 2011

Ford workers assembling the 2012 Focus.

The United Auto Workers Union is tallying up strike votes at Ford Motor Co. plants around the country as contract negotiations between the union and domestic automakers move towards the mid-September deadline.

The UAW is in the midst of talks with all three of the Detroit automakers, but Ford is the only one the union is legally able to strike due to strictures placed by the federal government in the multi-billion-dollar bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler following their 2009 bankruptcies.

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There are clearly some tough issues on the table — especially the unpopular two-tier wage structure that has been rapidly expanded since the industry’s near-collapse.  Nonetheless, both sides are trying to downplay the possibility of a confrontation.