DETROIT -- A major reason why Fiat Chrysler enjoys a labor-cost advantage of about $10 an hour over Ford Motor Co. dates to Chrysler's bankruptcy.
A UAW contract concession in 2009 allowed FCA US to hire an unlimited number of lower-cost entry-level workers.
Ford workers, in contrast, refused to eliminate a provision that capped the number of entry-level, or Tier 2, employees at 20 percent of its total UAW work force.
In union parlance, the UAW broke "pattern" to give a mending FCA US, then Chrysler Group, a little more incentive to hire workers. General Motors was given that same edge.
Now, as the union prepares to negotiate new contracts with the Detroit 3 this year, restoring pattern bargaining will be difficult.
Traditionally, the union has used pattern bargaining to play one automaker against another as it has tried to lift wages and benefits for all its members.
The technique was to pick the healthiest of the Detroit 3, negotiate the best deal possible, then lock the other two automakers into the same contract.
Standing in the way of fully restoring pattern bargaining are the Tier 2 wage earners. They violate the UAW's principle of equal pay for equal work.
But the automakers say Tier 2 wages are needed to keep their labor costs competitive with non-union rivals, especially the Japanese automakers.