UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, a tad hot under the collar last week, delivered what sounded like a cold war civics lesson to Delphi CEO Steve Miller: "The dictatorship is going to meet a democracy."
Gettelfinger said the union has had no discussions with Delphi, which wants drastic concessions from its 25,000 workers, and wondered out loud how Miller could tell reporters last week in Tokyo that he was optimistic about striking a deal during the first quarter of 2006.
"We're very frustrated with that situation. And I'm going to tell you, we are a responsible union, and we've helped many companies along the way," Gettelfinger said. "But we don't get along with dictatorships very well. And you can't dictate the terms of an agreement and tell us this is the way it's going to be."
The implication was that Miller -- who came to ailing Delphi with a $3 million signing bonus -- might be wise to stow his slash-and-burn rhetoric about overpaid workers and try a little tenderness. And the setting was perfect: Gettelfinger was speaking at a press conference about a health care deal with Ford Motor Co. that is expected to save the company $850 million, in exchange for a promise by the company to spend $900 million on new products and technology to keep UAW members on the job. Voting on the deal, which is similar to an agreement between the UAW and General Motors, will be completed this week.