The United Auto Workers has reached a tentative agreement on a new labor pact with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., completing what has been a difficult round of negotiations that took nearly five months to complete amid a scandal that claimed more than a dozen UAW executives, including the union’s president and another of its top officers.
While specific details won’t be announced until the ratification process moves forward, the agreement with FCA is believed to closely follow the pattern set earlier in this year’s round of auto talks following a 40-day strike against General Motors in September and October. Union members subsequently approved a pattern settlement with Ford Motor Co. before resuming talks with Fiat Chrysler
In a statement released Saturday, FCA confirmed that the Company and the UAW have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract, adding that “Further details will be provided at a later date.”
The talks with the smallest of Detroit’s Big Three went more smoothly than many had expected, some observers anticipating there might be another strike. One of the challenges facing FCA and UAW bargainers echoed a key issue leading to the strike that shut down GM’s North American operations for over a month: the use of contract workers in place of union members taking home better pay and benefits, as well as job security.
In the end, GM agreed to give many of those temporary employees a path to job security while also boosting pay and benefits for second-tier UAW members. It is expected that FCA will have yielded on the issue and will also see many of its temps become full-time employees.
Sources also have indicated that FCA’s union members will receive as much as $9,000 in signing bonuses. If accurate, that would prove to be significantly more than what Ford employees received, though short of the $11,000 paid out to GM’s UAW workers.
“Our UAW Bargaining Committee worked diligently, over many months, during the General Motors strike and Ford negotiations to maintain productive negotiations with FCA,” said UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, director of the UAW-FCA Department. “The pattern bargaining strategy has been a very effective approach for the UAW and its members to negotiate economic gains around salary, benefits and job security.
As with GM and Ford, talks with Fiat Chrysler began in July. But they were put on hold in early September as the union shifted full attention to its “strike target,” General Motors. It moved on to Ford after the 40-day walkout was settled and the GM settlement was ratified. The process repeated in November as the union moved on to the final round of talks.
But the situation at FCA faced a number of unusual complications, including several beyond the normal topics dealt with during contract negotiations. For one thing, just before the talks resumed, Fiat Chrysler confirmed it had reached a tentative merger agreement with France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen. Last week, the two announced that they plan to sign a binding agreement – the next step in the process – before the end of the year.
On top of that, bargainers knew they would face even more scrutiny than normal in the wake of an ongoing bribery scandal that has seen a number of union and company executives arrested, a dozen so far pleading guilty. The latest to be indicted is the recently Joe Ashton who was the highest-ranked union official so far targeted by federal prosecutors.
But authorities are believed to be taking aim at Gary Jones who this past month resigned as UAW president and his since resigned from the union. His home was raided by the FBI – along with those of other senior officials – in August.
Further complicating the situation for FCA, the company earlier this month was hit with a racketeering lawsuit filed by GM. The larger of the automakers contends Fiat Chrysler’s former CEO, the late Sergio Marchionne, used bribes and other means to get favorable, albeit illegal, settlements with the union that made it more difficult for GM to remain competitive. It is seeking billions in damages.
It’s not clear if or how the various issues facing FCA and the UAW impacted the final settlement.
“Out of respect for our members, we will refrain from commenting any further or releasing full details of the agreement until the UAW-FCA Council leaders meet and review the details,” said Estrada.
The UAW-FCA National Council will meet on Dec. 4, 2019 to go over details of the proposed Tentative Agreement. If adopted as a Tentative Agreement, it will go to all FCA hourly and salary members for a ratification vote that will begin on Dec. 6, 2019, a UAW spokesman said.
(Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.)