CEO Mary Barra has already met with UAW President Dennis Williams and the union's top GM negotiator, Cindy Estrada.
DETOIT -- General Motors’ lead labor negotiator has retired, marking the departure of two of the Detroit 3’s top labor officials just weeks ahead of contract negotiations with the UAW.
Rex Blackwell, 60, GM’s vice president of labor relations for North America, “elected to retire on June 1,” GM said in a statement.
Separately, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Tuesday announced the retirement of its top labor official, Al Iacobelli, 55. He had been Chrysler’s point person on its labor negotiations for nearly a decade.
With Blackwell’s departure, GM will turn to former labor chief and current North American Manufacturing Vice President Cathy Clegg to lead upcoming talks with the UAW.
The UAW and the Detroit 3 this summer are set to formally begin talks on a new four-year collective bargaining agreement. The current contract expires in September.
The changes at GM and FCA US mean all three companies will have new lead negotiators. Ford Motor Co.'s Bill Dirksen became vice president of labor affairs last year after Marty Mulloy retired. Dirksen played a key role in UAW talks in 2007, 2009 and 2011.
GM CEO Mary Barra also appears set to take part in the formal talks. She already has met several times with UAW President Dennis Williams and the union’s top GM negotiator, Cindy Estrada; among them was a meeting at GM’s headquarters here last week, a GM spokeswoman said.
With U.S. auto sales approaching an all-time high and the Detroit 3 flush with profits, industry analysts expect a tougher round of negotiations during these talks. UAW leaders are expected to push harder for wage increases and to close the pay gap between entry-level Tier 2 workers and legacy Tier 1 employees, who are paid roughly 50 percent more.
Clegg, 55, was GM’s top labor official for the last round of talks, in 2011. She was appointed to the top North American manufacturing post last July, in which she oversees around 75,000 employees and 55 facilities.
GM said in a statement that while Blackwell had been designated lead UAW negotiator, the company’s interface with the union has been a “team effort” that also included Clegg and Jim Glynn, vice president of global labor relations.
GM said in a statement that Clegg’s “close work with Blackwell and the UAW over the past few years enables a seamless transition.”