Fiat, UAW reach deal; union claims ‘significant gains’ – USA TODAY
DETROIT — Averting a possible midnight strike, the UAW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reached a new tentative agreement late Wednesday, with the union saying it won “significant gains” compared with an earlier deal members rejected last week.
The union told workers that it reached the new deal at 11:41 p.m. Eastern, according to a union message delivered to members. The union announced the deal to the outside world in a Facebook post at 12:03 am. Thursday.
“I’m relieved to know that I’ll be able to return to work tomorrow and keep supporting my family,” said Stephen Sowl, a worker at the company’s casting plant in Kokomo, Ind. “But I’m also prepared to turn the contract down if it’s not up to expectations.”
The agreement will be discussed by the UAW National Chrysler Council which will meet in Detroit on Friday at 11 a.m., and they will vote on whether to recommend it as the first step to getting it to the members for a ratification vote.
“We heard from our members, and went back to FCA to strengthen their contract,” said UAW President Dennis Williams in a written statement. “We’ve reached a proposed tentative agreement that I believe addresses our members’ principal concerns about their jobs and their futures. We have made real gains and I look forward to a full discussion of the terms with our membership.”
The union said it plans to make the details available after the Friday meeting, which would go a long way to preventing misinformation among members as to the terms, which was a factor in scuttling the first tentative agreement the union reached Sept. 15 which workers rejected.
“FCA US confirms that it has reached a new tentative agreement with the UAW,” the company said in a statement. “Because the agreement is subject to UAW member ratification, the company cannot discuss the specifics of the agreement pending a vote by UAW members.”
In the final minutes leading up to the Wednesday night deadline, 40,000 Fiat Chrysler workers had not received marching orders or news that their union leadership had reached the deal. But there were no reports of workers leaving the job as they awaited news.
The agreement comes a week after it decided to go back to the bargaining table after 65% of workers voted to reject an earlier proposal.
The UAW could have moved on to complete contract talks with either General Motors or Ford but decided instead to attempt to restructure the agreement.
That historic rejection of the earlier agreement by the union’s members came after a two week ratification process that saw workers complain that the terms of the agreement failed to live up to their expectations when it came to the hope that the two-tier pay structure would be eliminated. Workers also complained about a lack information about a new health care cooperative and expressed anger over the company’s plans to move the production of the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 to Mexico.
The contract that was rejected would have provided all workers with a $3,000 signing bonus. Wages for entry-level workers, those hired after 2007, would have increased immediately from a range of $15.78 to $19.28 to a range of $17 to $24. Those at $24 an hour — reserved for those with six to seven years of service — would reach $25.35 after another year of service. At the low end, that’s an immediate 8% raise. At the highest end, it would have meant an immediate 24% raise.
Workers hired before 2007 would have received two 3% wage increases and two lump-sum bonuses over the four-year life of the contract.
The proposed contract also included a commitment from both sides to work on creating a new health care cooperative for all active UAW auto workers. The co-op would work to negotiate better rates and treatments from health providers without an increase in what workers pay for care.