DETROIT -- UAW-represented workers at the Detroit 3 enjoy some of the best health care benefits in industrial America.
So a big question in this year's UAW-Detroit 3 contract talks is whether those benefits can survive intact for four more years -- and leave enough money for the UAW to achieve other key goals, such as pay raises.
Health care is the single largest benefit in dollars for UAW workers, said labor expert Kristin Dziczek. She is director of the industry and labor group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler and General Motors are watching nervously as their costs rise for hourly employee health care.
Health care cost inflation combined with additional employees has pushed Ford's estimated health care cost for bargaining-unit employees to $800 million this year from $550 million in 2011, Ford said in a statement. FCA US said its cost is on pace to jump to $615 million this year vs. $347 million in 2011.
The Detroit 3 employ about 137,000 hourly workers combined.
Ford and FCA provided some information for this report, but they and GM declined to comment on contract strategy. The UAW declined to comment.