by David Shepardson
(Reuters) – Talks between the United Auto Workers and the Detroit Three automakers resumed on Saturday, a day after the union launched the largest U.S. industrial labor strike in decades targeting three automakers at once.
The four-year contract between the union and General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Chrysler-parent Stellar ended on Thursday at 11:59 pm EDT. Stellantis said it upped the ante on Saturday, proposing a 20% increase over the four-and-a-half-year contract period, including an immediate 10% increase. That matches proposals from GM and Ford.
The automakers say the proposals would work toward a total increase of 21%, but still fall far short of the 40% wage increase the UAW is seeking through 2027. The union’s wage demand includes a 20% faster increase.
Stellants North America chief executive Mark Stewart told reporters Saturday that he called the company’s latest offer “very compelling.” We are fully aware.
“This is not greed, this is about sharing success,” he said.
Stellantis said it is offering more than $1 billion in retirement security improvements and other benefits. Stewart said the UAW rejected Stellants’ proposal to keep the Illinois assembly plant open before the contract expired. He declined to provide specifics, but added that the company is still willing to talk about the facility’s future.
‘go the distance’
The strikes halted production at three plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri that make the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado, among other popular models.
The workers say they need cost-cutting contracts because of the billions of dollars needed to shift to electric vehicles, but the workers say US automakers have enjoyed strong profits over the past decade and a 40 percent increase in CEO pay. Average as of 2019.
On Friday, Ford said it was laying off 600 workers indefinitely at a plant in Michigan because of a strike at a plant that makes the Bronco SUV, and GM said it could lay off about 2,000 workers at its Kansas auto plant. Due to a strike at the Missouri plant, it will be closed next week for parts shortages.
Stellantis said it does not expect other plants to be disrupted by the strike at its Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, on Saturday.
UAW President Sean Fay called reports of plans to lay off non-striking workers an attempt by the automakers to “pressure” union members into accepting a weak settlement.
“Their plan won’t work,” Fain said in a statement. “We will organize one day more than you can and we will go the distance to win economic and social justice with the Big Three.”
In addition to higher wages, the UAW wants shorter work weeks, reinstatement of defined benefits and stronger job security when automakers make the EV transition. The union also wants to end the so-called “two-tier” salary, while the automakers have proposed reducing the number of years needed to reach the highest salary level from eight to four years. The UAW said the automakers rejected several key demands.
U.S. Automakers said the UAA’s request could raise labor costs in the mid-$60s an hour range to more than $150 an hour. GM said Thursday that the UAW’s wage and benefits proposal would cost $100 billion, and Ford CEO Jim Farley said a 40% UAW wage increase would “put us out of business.”
US President Joe Biden, who is up for re-election next year, called on auto companies on Friday to reward workers as executive pay rises. “The companies have made some significant concessions, but I believe record corporate profits mean they will have to go further to secure record contracts,” he said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Paul Simao)