UAW shifts focus to Chrysler and Marchionne

Wed Sep 21, 2011 7:44am EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - With a tentative agreement with General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) in hand, the United Auto Workers union shifts its focus to Chrysler Group LLC where a one-week contract extension will expire late Wednesday.

Last Wednesday night, less than two hours before the four-year pact between the union and Chrysler was to expire, Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne fired off a letter to UAW President Bob King chiding the union chief for missing an opportunity.

Marchionne said: "You and I failed" the U.S. government that funded the automaker's 2009 bankruptcy and bailout by not coming to agreement on a contract by the deadline.

Most of the work had been done by last week, and only a meeting of the two chiefs was needed to finalize the deal, Marchionne's letter said.

"We are down to the resolution of a few issues, primarily involving the economics for our employees for the next four years," Marchionne's September 14 letter said.

In the same letter, Marchionne agreed to the one-week contract extension.

Meanwhile, at Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote), an open-ended extension was agreed upon ahead of the September 14 expiration.

While King on Tuesday said he had not decided whether to enter intensive talks next with Chrysler or Ford, those close to the talks say Chrysler is up next and Ford -- the only automaker not to take a U.S. government bailout in 2009 -- will be last.   Continued...