UAW-FCA agreement fails with 65% rank-and-file rejection

Union leaders meet to discuss what's next

Williams: Contract rejection was not a setback.

The UAW will return to the bargaining table with Fiat Chrysler after its membership rejected a proposed agreement by 65 percent, according to a statement released today by the union.

UAW President Dennis Williams said the rejection of the agreement wasn’t “a setback; we consider the membership vote a part of the process we respect.”

The rejection increases the risk of a strike at FCA as the union decides its next move.

Fiat Chrysler, in a statement, said it was "disappointed" by the vote.

"The bargaining teams on both sides worked hard, for many days and nights, to craft a transformational agreement that would adequately reward the commitment of our workforce while ensuring the company’s continued success and competitiveness," the statement said.

"Striking the right balance in these two objectives has been the most difficult thing to accomplish in these negotiations, but after many hours of dialogue and debate between the UAW and FCA US leadership, the company felt that a just and equitable compromise had been reached."

The UAW statement said the union’s FCA national bargaining committee and FCA council would meet “to discuss the issues” that members had with the rejected agreement. The statement didn’t indicate whether the union would return to try and amend its agreement with FCA or move on to bargain with Ford Motor Co. or General Motors.

In online comments, FCA workers discussed several issues that they objected to in the rejected contract, including that it had no bridge between lower Tier 2 wages and those of traditional Tier 1 workers. Workers also expressed objections to a lack of a written product plan and a failure to adequately address an unloved alternative work schedule that sees some workers regularly shifting from days to nights to days again.

“As I said at the press conference: “What I love about our organization most of all is that no matter what we do, what action we take, the ultimate decision and the power of the union is our members and they make the final decision,” Williams said in the written statement.

The company said it "looks forward to continuing a dialogue with the UAW." 

"The memories of our near-death experience in 2009 are vivid to this day in the minds of most of us at FCA," the company statement said. "A large number of new employees have been brought into the group since then who, thankfully, did not have to endure the pain and sacrifices that were required of the workforce then.

"But it is that knowledge and those memories that continuously reinforce the FCA leadership’s resolve to never let those events repeat. While significant progress has been made since the events of less than seven years ago, much more work remains to be done and challenges remain while new, significant ones surface."

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: @LarryVellequett

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