UAW wants local and national contracts at Fiat Chrysler – Detroit Free Press
The UAW isn’t just trying to reach a new national agreement with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to replace the one set to retire Sept. 14 — the union is simultaneously working to hammer out local contracts covering each plant across the nation.
The approach is a change in strategy from 2011 and aims to prevent a scenario where the ratification of local contracts can languish for years.
During the last set of national talks in 2011, the UAW reached a master agreement with Fiat Chrysler, General Motors and Ford to cover big issues such as wages and benefits, but a number of local agreements at the plant level were never ratified. Local contracts cover individual plant rules and issues.
This year, UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell, who is in charge of the Chrysler talks for the first time, wants to make sure all agreements are wrapped up in a timely manner.
“We did address this issue as union presidents with …Norwood Jewell. He has given us his support,” said George Maus, president of UAW Local 1302 in Kokomo, Ind. “We are meeting regularly with the company in an effort to wrap up UAW Local 1302 local contracts by the expiration if possible.”
Since 2011, Maus said only one one of six different units within local ratified a new contract with Fiat Chrysler. They continued to operate under the old agreement.
Fiat-Chrysler, in an email, said: “FCA US and the UAW are working in earnest to achieve the national agreement and local agreements by the deadline.”
Typically, the UAW’s national contract with Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors and Ford garner’s the most attention. It covers wages, health care, profit sharing, vacation time, other “economic benefits,” and job commitments for about 141,000 workers at the three automakers, including about 39,000 at Fiat Chrysler.
Separately, the plant-specific local contracts cover work rules, policies and procedures that can be different from one plant to another. They are negotiated by elected local UAW leaders, with oversight from the union’s international executives.
Local contract discussions can be just as contentious as national negotiations. Workers at an engine plant in Dundee, members of UAW Local 723, initially rejected a local agreement in August 2012, raising the prospect of a strike that would have quickly halted production at a number of plants. The automaker refused to renegotiate the deal and forced the union to redouble efforts to explain the agreement to workers and take a second vote.
George Windau, a bargaining committeeman at UAW Local 12 in Toledo, said local contract negotiations have been in high gear in Toledo.
Windau speculates that the UAW wants to be in a position to call a limited, or targeted, strike at one more more locations if needed to put pressure on the automaker on national contract discussions.
The UAW has already asked all Fiat Chrysler, General Motors and Ford locals to conduct strike votes — a routine part of the national contract process which gives union leadership authorization to call a national strike if talks fail.
UAW President Dennis Williams has said he views a strike as a last resort and a failure in the efforts to negotiate a good agreement.
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