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UAW Push Falls Short, Deadline Missed

Union, GM and Chrysler miss midnight contract deadline; talks continue.

by on Sep.15, 2011

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne writes an enraged letter to UAW Chief Bob King.

The United Auto Workers fell short in a bold effort to reach an agreements with both General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group as the union’s contracts with the two automakers expired at midnight.

The union push appears to have been hampered by lack of any kind of strike deadline and by a tactical decision that left Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne fuming.

Machionne, having blown off a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to fly back to Detroit from the Frankfurt Motor Show, was clearly irritated by UAW president Bob King’s decision to spend time in the talks at GM as discussions intensified and negotiating sessions stretched into the evening hours.

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Because of continuing discussion with GM, King missed an appointment with Marchionne, who in a toughly worded letter accused the union of slipping back into an adversarial role. “We have known about this expirations date for a long time,” Marchionne wrote.

The missed appointment could delay a settlement at Chrysler by as much as a week.


Hopes Fading for Quick Settlement in Auto Talks

Two-tier wages could be sticking point.

by on Aug.30, 2011

UAW President King insists the U.S. is not broke.

Chances for a quick and amiable settlement in contract talks between the United Auto Workers Union and Ford Motor Co, General Motors and Chrysler Group appear to be fading as labor and management head towards their Sept. 14th deadline.

Both sides continue to put a positive spin on the pace of talks – at least for public consumption – but sticking points are starting to develop.  The union, for one, is taking an increasing tough tone on the two-tier wage system the Big Three insist they need to stay competitive.  And, the manufacturers warn, that without a sense they can remain on a cost par with their foreign competitors they will need to consider exporting more jobs.

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On the other hand, the makers are also dangling a carrot, suggesting that labor peace could lead to significant job creation in a domestic industry that has seen its job base shrivel over the last several decades.

The two-tier wage debate has spurred angry talk – and some local demonstrations – in recent weeks, though UAW president Bob King continues to insist he is “upbeat” about the prospects for reaching a peaceful resolution.


Lots on the Line as GM Set to Begin Contract Talks with UAW

Maker wants more givebacks, workers want concessions restored. Is a battle brewing?

by on Jul.22, 2011

UAW Pres. Bob King doesn't think GM's 2-tier pay structure offers new employees a living wage.

The United Auto Workers Union is set to begin contract negotiations with General Motors Corp. Chrysler Group and Ford Motor in the coming days and, as always, the negotiations with the GM will once again serve as the main event .

After all, Ford hasn’t had a serious labor disruption since Gerald Ford occupied the White House. Even if the talks at Ford turn contentious — and they might — the company still has the option of bringing in executive chairman Bill Ford to smooth over any rough edges. Bill Ford is widely respected inside and has a well-founded reputation for being more than fair with union members.

At Chrysler union leaders and the rank-and-file have been thoroughly charmed by Sergio Marchionne, who has gone out of his way in the past two years to court the UAW. The union leadership at Chrysler has reciprocated, giving Marchionne wide latitude even though, up until this week, they were the technical owners of the company.

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But at GM, the long legacy of bitter fights and mistrust between labor and management still overshadows the negotiations. Both union leaders and GM’s management have made an effort to move on and give the company the equivalent of a post-bankruptcy fresh start.  Nonetheless, labor relations at GM are very much a work in progress.

And that could bring some serious problems as the talks head to a September deadline — even though the terms of GM’s 2009 government bailout bar both a worker strike and management lockout.


Will UAW Accept More Profit Sharing?

As union opens pre-bargaining conference, automakers set their own strategy.

by on Mar.23, 2011

UAW President Bob King has a tough round of negotiations coming up.

After granting billions of dollars in concessions to help Detroit makers survive the U.S. auto industry’s worst downturn in decades, union workers are looking for some givebacks when they return to the bargaining table this year.  But they may have to share the risks, rather than simply get the enhanced pay and benefits workers could have traditionally expected, observers caution.

The United Auto Workers Union’s senior leaders are gathered in Detroit, this week, to lay out their demands – and work out strategy to go up against makers who are now pushing back into the black while still professing serious financial problems.

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The challenge for the UAW’s new President Bob King will be to navigate a narrow path that would make workers happy, keep Detroit’s Big Three healthy – and head off a potential confrontation that could sour what has become the most positive working relationship between labor and management since the union gained a seat at the table, following the angry confrontations of the 1920s and ‘30s.

“It’s not going to be easy for Bob,” said a well-placed union source asking for anonymity prior to the start of the UAW convention.  “He clearly understands that the auto companies are not out of the woods.  But he also knows he can’t go back to workers and expect them to approve contracts that don’t make up some of their losses.”