DETROIT - Heads of United Auto Workers locals from across the United States are to hold an emergency meeting in Detroit today to discuss concessions the union could make to help auto companies get government loans.
UAW leaders called the meeting Monday night in an e-mail to local union presidents and bargaining chairmen.
Among the subjects to be discussed at the meeting will be the possibility of restructuring the union-administered health care fund so that the automakers can delay payments to the multibillion-dollar fund, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The union leaders also will discuss potentially eliminating the jobs bank, in which laid-off workers keep receiving most of their pay. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the talks haven't been finalized.
Presidents from union locals for General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler LLC are to attend the meeting. A separate meeting for GM union officials will follow, according to the e-mail.
Ray Wood, President of UAW Local 14 at GM's Toledo Powertrain plant, said, "The thing to remember is that if they're going to change our contract, add to it or take away from it, then it has to be voted on by the membership."
He wants the industry's success stories, such as his factory, to be outlined to Congress, which is to decide next week whether to provide $25 billion in loans and aid to the Detroit Three automakers.
"I would have loved for them to have taken our plant up on Capitol Hill," Mr. Wood said. The Toledo transmission plant has been recognized in five out of the last six years as the most productive transmission plant in North America, beating both domestic competitors and those from overseas.
Chief executives from all three companies and UAW President Ron Gettelfinger are traveling to Washington this week to present business plans to Congress as they seek federal money to help them survive.
The automakers presented their plans yesterday, amid a flurry of newly released November vehicle sales reports from each automaker. Sales were down more than 30 percent from the same month last year for Ford, more than 40 percent for GM, and nearly 50 percent for Chrysler.
GM, Ford, and Chrysler would refinance their companies' debt, cut executive pay, seek concessions from workers, and find other ways to revive themselves.
Mr. Gettelfinger said yesterday the plans the automakers are submitting to Congress don't yet include union-approved cutbacks, but he said "we recognize that there may be additional sacrifices required."
"We have ongoing discussions with the companies. We're working all the time to help save the companies money," he said on WJR-AM radio's Paul W. Smith Show in Detroit.
U.S. automakers are struggling to stay afloat under the weight of an economic meltdown, the worst auto sales in decades, and a tight credit market. GM, Ford, and Chrysler went through nearly $18 billion in cash reserves during the last quarter, and GM and Chrysler have said they could collapse in weeks.
Last month, chief executives from the Detroit Three failed to convince Congress to lend $25 billion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ordered them to outline major changes, including elimination of lavish executive pay packages and assurances that taxpayers would be reimbursed for the loans.
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