Chrysler crisis over, UAW now moves to Ford

Voting is wrapping up at Chrysler, and the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union can breathe a sigh of relief. On Friday 26, October, the contract between the UAW and the Chrysler management passed by about 56 per cent in favour to 44 per cent opposed, with a margin of about 4,000 votes.

Workers at Chrysler's plant in Belvidere, Illinois, were the last to vote on the contract on Friday. Most of the plant's 3,444 workers have said that they oppose the contract, but even a unanimous no vote at Belvedere cannot overturn the deal. Consequently, the UAW will now turn its attention to Ford, the last Detroit company that needs to reach an agreement on a new labour contract.

At General Motors, 66 per cent of the members who voted approved the contract earlier this month after a two-day strike. However, the Chrysler vote was very turbulent. Workers at Chrysler walked off the job for six hours, while local union leaders were split over the agreement.

The deal was rejected by four assembly plants, but supported by a number of smaller factories as well as the four big plants in the Detroit area – they approved the contract on Wednesday.

Opponents said the Chrysler pact did not provide as many guarantees of future work as the GM contract. That issue is centre stage at Ford, which lost $12.6 billion last year and does not expect to earn a profit in North America before 2009.

Talks there, which proceeded at a slow pace during the Chrysler vote, are expected to step up over the weekend. Generally, the UAW expects to get the same terms under its pattern bargaining, but as at Chrysler, the union may have to settle for something less than the GM pact.