Nearly 2/3 of UAW re­ject Fiat Chrysler deal

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY TOM KR­ISHER

Nearly two thirds of United Auto Work­ers at Fiat Chrysler voted to re­ject a pro­posed con­tract agree­ment with the com­pany.

Sixty-five per­cent of the mem­ber­ship voted against the pact, the union said Thurs­day, send­ing UAW lead­ers scram­bling for a Plan B. Union lead­ers from across the na­tion were meet­ing Thurs­day in a Detroit, Michigan sub­urb to talk about their next move.

The rejection is a slap at Pres­i­dent Dennis Wil­liams who pitched the deal as a fair way to com­pen­sate work­ers yet keep the com­pany com­pet­i­tive in a global auto mar­ket.

The rejection by such a wide mar­gin leaves open the pos­si­bil­ity of a strike, since mem­bers seem to be uni­fied in their op­po­si­tion, said Kristin Dz­iczek, di­rec­tor of the la­bor and man­u­fac­tur­ing group at the Cen­ter for Automotive Re­search, an in­dus­try think tank.

“A strike puts pres­sure on all the par­ties to come back to the ( bar­gain­ing) ta­ble,” she said. “When you have this much anger and anx­i­ety, I think a strike pro­vides an out­let for some of that.”

The vote likely will send Wil­liams back to Fiat Chrysler to seek more, but it’s un­clear how tem­per­a­men­tal CEO Ser­gio Mar­chionne will re­act, she said. Wil­liams and Mar­chionne have a good re­la­tion­ship, but Dz­iczek is not sure how that will play into get­ting a bet­ter deal.

In a union state­ment, Wil­liams said he doesn’t con­sider the vote a set­back be­cause it’s part of the con­tract process. “The ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion and the power of the union is our mem­bers, and they make the fi­nal de­ci­sion,” he said.

Fiat Chrysler said it was dis­ap­pointed in the vote be­cause bar­gain­ers for both sides worked hard on an agree­ment “that would ad­e­quately re­ward the com­mit­ment of our work­force while en­sur­ing the com­pany’s con­tin­ued suc­cess.” FCA looks for­ward to con­tin­ued bar­gain­ing, the state­ment said.

The union, which rep­re­sents 40,000 work­ers at FCA, now can choose to go on strike, re­turn to bar­gain­ing with the com­pany to seek a bet­ter deal, or shift its talks to Gen­eral Mo­tors or Ford. Union work­ers at all three com­pa­nies have stayed on the job un­der con­tract ex­ten­sions since Sept. 14.

The union reached a ten­ta­tive agree­ment with the com­pany two weeks ago that in­cludes pay raises, the po­ten­tial for in­creased profit shar­ing and a US$3,000 sign­ing bonus. But some mem­bers ob­jected be­cause the raises don’t bring an end to a two-tier wage struc­ture in which work­ers hired af­ter 2007 are paid less than vet­eran em­ploy­ees. The con­tract also al­lows the com­pany to shift some car pro­duc­tion to low-wage Mexico, re­plac­ing it with new trucks and SUVs that carry higher price tags to cover higher U.S. wages.

Work­ers said they voted “no” be­cause the deal didn’t give low­ertier work­ers a path to reach­ing the top wage of US$28.50 per hour. They also said the con­tract doesn’t cap the num­ber of sec­ond-tier work­ers. The UAW agreed to al­low lower pay for en­try-level work­ers in 2007 when Detroit au­tomak­ers were strug­gling fi­nan­cially. About 45 per­cent of FCA’s work­ers are paid the lower wage, while GM and Ford can’t ex­ceed 20 to 25 per­cent.

AP

In this July 14 file photo, Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles CEO Ser­gio Mar­chionne, left, and United Auto Work­ers Pres­i­dent Dennis Wil­liams talk dur­ing a cer­e­mony to mark the open­ing of con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions in Detroit, Michigan.

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