Fiat Chrysler, U.S. union UAW at table as strike looms

Wed Oct 7, 2015 3:34pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - With a threatened strike hanging over them, negotiators from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and the United Auto Workers union continued to meet on Wednesday afternoon, a Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman said.

The U.S. union on Tuesday called for a strike against Fiat Chrysler's U.S. operations at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday (0359 GMT Thursday) unless a new agreement on a four-year contract is reached.

There are 40,000 Fiat Chrysler UAW workers who could strike.

A union spokesman gave no details of the talks including whether the company was willing to sweeten the deal it offered the UAW that was approved Sept. 18 by the union leaders but rejected last week by 65 percent of its rank-and-file Fiat Chrysler membership.

Workers have said they turned down the contract because many wanted a two-tier wage and benefit system eliminated. Short of that, they sought a cap on that lower-paid second tier at 25 percent of the total union workforce. Many workers also wish to undo some of the concessions they have given since 2007 to keep the company competitive.

The last time the UAW called a strike against Detroit automakers, who currently make up about 37 percent of the union's membership, was in 2007 at Chrysler and General Motors Co. GM and Chrysler were prohibited from striking until this year as part of the 2009 bailout agreement with the U.S. government.

Sean McAlinden, economist with the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan, estimated that Fiat Chrysler could lose $40 million of operating profit and at least $1 billion of revenue weekly in a strike of all its U.S. production plants. That calculation uses an estimated per-vehicle profit of about $1,100 in the first half of the year.

The company's U.S. production plants are concentrated in the U.S. Midwest, in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.   Continued...

A Chrysler Warren Truck Assembly sign is seen in front of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) plant in Warren, Michigan October 7, 2015.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook