Executives of the big three American automobile makers – General Motors, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler Group – are in talks with the powerful United Auto Workers, as the current contract, signed in 2007, comes to an end on 14 September.
Bob King, president, UAW, has asserted that his union will ensure that labour costs are kept competitive and the three big auto-makers are not crippled by any wage increases. ''We are going to make sure the companies are competitive coming out of these agreements,'' King said. ''We are not going to disadvantage the companies we work with. Heck, we all want a wage increase, but is that the best way?''
However, he warned that the union will not make any concessions and that the workers must be rewarded for the $7,000 to $30,000 in concessions they each gave since 2005 when the troubled auto-makers were on the verge of going down under.
According to unconfirmed reports, the UAW is demanding a signing bonus of up to $10,000 for the 110,000-plus workers who are its members. This would mean an additional burden of more than a billion dollars for the three auto majors.
Auto workers at the three firms received signing bonuses of $3,000 after they approved the current contract in 2007. In earlier contracts, they had won bonuses of $1,000 each. But Michele Martin, a spokeswoman for the UAW, denied that the union was seeking such large bonuses. ''It's inaccurate and it creates false expectations,'' she said.
Both GM and Chrysler had to be rescued by the US government in 2009 and their workers have signed an agreement not to go on a strike. Ford workers, however, have refused to sign a no-strike pledge.