The United Auto Workers, bargaining a new contract with U.S. automakers, is turning to General Motors Co. to set the pattern for wages and benefits for the U.S. industry, three people familiar with the discussions said.
UAW bargainers are seeking a large signing bonus and new work in U.S. factories in exchange for not increasing fixed labor costs at GM, Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler Group LLC, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified as revealing internal discussions. Negotiations at GM are furthest along and will continue through the weekend, the people said.
The union’s contracts covering 113,000 workers at GM, Ford, and Chrysler expire Sept. 14. UAW President Bob King said he still hoped to have deals at all three companies around the deadline, so talks will continue at Ford and Chrysler next week, the person said. GM is offering buyouts in hopes that senior workers retire, making room for new hires who are paid half as much, two people familiar with the proposal said.
“GM makes the most sense as the lead company because it remains the largest, it has shown renewed health, and a willingness to work with the UAW,” said Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at the University of California at Berkeley. “GM is the company that is demonstrating that they want to get a deal.”
The size of the signing bonuses the union is seeking isn’t known, the people said. Such bonuses totaled $3,000 for workers at GM, Ford, and Chrysler in the last talks in 2007.
The UAW traditionally picks one automaker to create a deal it uses as a template with the other two. Such pattern bargaining has kept wages and benefits close to parity among the three carmakers, Mr. Shaiken said.
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