UAW picks Fiat Chrysler as target company in labor talks

Sun Sep 13, 2015 5:29pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCHA.MI: Quote) (FCAU.N: Quote) will get the first shot at setting a pattern for wages and benefits for more than 140,000 unionized factory workers at the Detroit Three automakers, the company and the United Auto Workers union said Sunday.

The UAW did not elaborate on its decision to choose FCA to set the pattern for new master contracts it will later negotiate with General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) and Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote).

FCA Executive Sergio Marchionne has been the most vocal among Detroit CEOs in calling for an end to the current wage system under which recently-hired UAW workers earn about 40 percent less per hour than union veterans on the assembly line.

UAW leaders have called for narrowing or eliminating the pay gap, pointing to the robust profits rolling in from sales of the trucks and sport utility vehicles UAW members build.

If FCA and the UAW cannot come to terms, the union could order strikes, potentially hobbling FCA's production of its highest-profit U.S. models.

The UAW's lead negotiator at Chrysler, Norwood Jewell, has said in messages to members that job security and pay increases are his top priorities.

Looming over the UAW's negotiations with FCA, GM and Ford are the growing number of U.S. auto plant workers who are not members of the union and work for European and Asian automakers in the southern United States.

The more flexible work rules at non-union factories, and in certain cases lower wages and benefits, could put limits on the UAW's aspirations, analysts said.   Continued...

United Auto Workers Union President Dennis Williams listens to a question from the media during a press event officially beginning 2015 contract negotiations between General Motors and the UAW at the UAW-GM Center Human Resources in Detroit, Michigan July 13, 2015.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook