DETROIT -- UAW President Ron Gettelfinger used a high-visibility speech here last week to say no to the Chrysler group and blame Delphi Corp.'s greed for stalled labor talks.
The "no" was in response to a Chrysler group request for the same health care concessions the UAW gave General Motors and Ford Motor Co. After using an outside contractor to review the Chrysler group's financials, the UAW determined the automaker did not need the same concessions, Gettelfinger said. The GM and Ford concessions were worth nearly $1 billion each.
Traditionally, the UAW treats each of the Detroit 3 equally. Not this time, said Dave Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.
The UAW leadership must have known it would have a hard time getting rank-and-file approval given the profitability of DaimlerChrysler, Cole said.
John Franciosi, senior vice president of employee relations at DaimlerChrysler AG, said the automaker's labor cost disadvantage to transplant automakers in the United States is $1,000 per vehicle. Even a pattern health care agreement would reduce that disadvantage by only 20 percent, he said.
"It is unfortunate that the UAW wasn't willing to assist us in taking the first step to leveling that playing field," he said in a statement on Friday, Sept. 8. "Sooner or later, we -- including the UAW -- are going to have to deal with this greater issue."
Gettelfinger saved his most pointed remarks for Delphi. He said the Delphi unions paved the way to an agreement through an early-retirement and buyout program. Under the plan, about 20,000 veteran workers earning $28 an hour are being replaced by temporaries at $14 an hour. The GM-financed attrition plan is expected to cost at least $5.5 billion.
That plan should have satisfied Delphi's desire for more competitive labor costs, Gettelfinger said. Yet Delphi continues to pursue a U.S. Bankruptcy Court motion to void its labor agreements -- a strategy that, if approved, would prompt the UAW and IUE-CWA to strike. "It's only a matter of greed now," he said.
Said Delphi spokesman Lindsey Williams: "This issue is not a matter of greed but of Delphi's competitiveness."
You may e-mail Dave Barkholz at [email protected]