PAUL SANCYA / AP Enlarge
DETROIT United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger said Wednesday that the union is willing to change its contract and will delay billions of dollars in payments to a union-run health care trust in an effort to help the struggling Detroit Three automakers.
Gettelfinger also said the union will modify the jobs bank, in which laid-off workers are paid up to 95 percent of their salaries while not working, but he did not give specifics.
"We're going to sit down and work out the mechanics," Gettelfinger said at a news conference after meeting with local union officials. "We're a little unclear on some of the issues."
One local union member who was in the meeting said the changes to the jobs bank would nearly eliminate it. The member asked not to be identified because the details had not been made public.
Gettelfinger stopped short of saying the union would reopen contract talks with General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and Ford Motor Co. but said it would be willing to return to the bargaining table to change some terms.
The UAW's efforts to help the Detroit Three get up to $34 billion in government loans come after GM and Chrysler said they are perilously low on cash and need government help before the end of the year. Ford says it has enough borrowed cash to make it through 2009 and may not need government help.
Members of Congress last month criticized the automakers for paying workers who are not on the job.
The CEOs of all three automakers are heading to Washington for Congressional hearings Thursday and Friday on their request for a total of $34 billion in government loans to help them weather a recession and the worst auto sales climate in 26 years.
Congressional leaders demanded business plans from all three that include a reduction in labor costs so Detroit is more competitive with foreign automakers with U.S. factories. The companies submitted their plans to Congress on Tuesday.