AUSWR
The Association of U S West Retirees
 

 

 

UAW, Chrysler Begin Contract Talks
By Jeffrey McCracken and John D. Stoll
The Wall Street Journal
Sunday, October 7, 2007

DETROIT -- Negotiators with the United Auto Workers union and Chrysler LLC were at the bargaining table Saturday as efforts to reach a tentative contract agreement intensified.

Chrysler spokeswoman Michele Tinson confirmed that both parties were talking.

The UAW last week sealed a tentative agreement with General Motors Corp., representing the first of the three contracts it needs to solidify.  Over the past week, UAW leadership has been working to ratify the GM agreement at several plants across the U.S., while also feeling out negotiators at Chrysler and Ford Motor Co. in order to define its next target in negotiations.  UAW President Ron Gettelfinger spent part of his week working with Chrysler negotiators, a person familiar with the situation said.

Mr. Gettelfinger's decision to next focus on Chrysler in negotiations means Ford will be the last auto maker to negotiate with the UAW.  Several analysts have predicted this as the UAW's strategy, saying Ford will need the biggest breaks from the union given its weak financial health.

Officials from the UAW and Ford could not immediately be reached.

As the UAW moves to Chrysler, it is encountering an auto maker that recently was taken private by Cerberus Capital Management after the private equity firm purchased majority stake in the company from Daimler AG.  While the UAW is expected to push Chrysler to agree to a contract that is similar to GM's deal, Chrysler officials are expected to come into the negotiations armed with a unique list of demands, including health-care cost concessions that would put the auto maker on equal footing with GM and Ford when it comes to retiree medical expense liabilities.

Earlier this week, UAW officials on the Chrysler bargaining team expressed concern with the deal that the UAW inked with GM, and that could pose a challenge to negotiators as they look to follow the GM pattern as close as possible.  Under its contract, GM made several product guarantees and agreed to turn over billions of dollars in cash, securities and other liquidity in order to fund an independent trust to manage health-care liabilities for hourly retirees.

Write to Jeffrey McCracken at jeff.mccracken@wsj.com and John D. Stoll at john.stoll@dowjones.net

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119162369538550600.html?mod=hps_us_whats_news