DAVID BARKHOLZ

Chill Alert! Stay calm over UAW signing bonuses

David Barkholz covers labor issues for Automotive News.

Take a deep breath and relax all you folks seeing white over reports that the UAW wants signing bonuses of $8,000 from the Detroit 3.

It's admittedly a UAW record and a nice chunk of change by most automotive labor standards, exempting, of course, rock-star executives pulling down $26 million or so a year.

But let's put the money in perspective: the signing bonus would be in lieu of pay raises for another four years or a restoration of cost-of-living allowances -- those naughty fixed labor costs that the Detroit 3 swore off as New Year's resolutions.

In 2007, the rank-and-file got a $3,000 signing bonus and COLA adjustments.

So what would it cost the carmakers in these talks for a modest 3 percent COLA restoration to their 112,000 hourly employees over the next four-year agreements? With compounding, about $7,300.

Voila. Very close to the $8,000 signing bonuses being discussed. And maybe eye-popping enough to get a restless rank-and-file to accept it, even though those workers haven't had a raise since 2003 and their COLA is frozen.

Now go ahead and exhale.

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