Ford UAW workers threaten strike; FCA-UAW contract hangs in balance – MLive.com

Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2015

DETROIT, MI – Workers at Ford Motor Co.’s Kansas City, Mo. truck plant are on a five-day strike notice over disagreements with the Dearborn company. The Kansas City plant employs about 7,500 workers, who build the Ford F-150.

“This action is necessary for two reasons,” UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles said in a statement. “One, it honors a commitment your National Ford Delegates unanimously agreed to in March of this year, to have all local agreements completed simultaneous to the national agreement. Secondly, the company has failed to negotiate in good faith at the local level on issues surrounding manpower provisions, the national heat stress program, and skilled trades scheduling amongst others.”

The announcement Tuesday from Settles comes as Fiat Chrysler workers continue to vote on a tentative contract between the UAW and FCA.

However, in giving the five-day strike notice, Settles said the current agreement FCA workers are voting on is different than Ford’s agreement on factors ranging from vacation language to entry-level and legacy pay rates. 

“In addition, there have been instances in the past where Ford, FCA and GM have even had differing pay scales and rates,” Settles said. “Until we have reached a tentative agreement, there is no way to guess what our contract will possess.”

The tentative agreement between FCA and the UAW is intended to serve as a broad guide for negotiations with Ford and General Motors. 

But as voting neared an end on Wednesday morning, that agreement appeared to be in jeopardy, with workers in Toledo and Sterling Heights becoming the latest major plants to vote against the contract, The Detroit News reports

With talks led by the FCA chief Sergio Marchionne and UAW president Dennis Williams, the two parties reached a tentative agreement for new contracts on Sept. 15. 

Going into the talks, which officially began in July, one priority for the UAW was to bridge an apparent wage gap between so-called Tier 1 and Tier 2 workers. 

The two-tier wage system was set up to boost hiring of entry-level workers in the late 2000s when automakers were struggling. Tier-2 entry-level workers are compensated at nearly half the hourly rate of so-called Tier-1 legacy workers who were hired before 2007.

FCA easily has the largest share of Tier-2 workers, at about 45 percent, versus 28 percent at Ford and 20 percent at GM.

Leaked documents from the contract show that entry-level pay would be raised, and the Tier-2 wages could be phased tout, though workers rejecting the deal have been complaining of additional tiers instead being added. 

Another concern of workers reportedly includes a planned production shift that would send some work to Mexico while bringing other labor back to the U.S.

Within the U.S., Jeep Cherokee production would be moved from the Toledo Assembly Complex to Belvidere Assembly in Illinois, according to Automotive News. Production of the Jeep Wrangler would remain at the Toledo site, and FCA plans to build a Wrangler pickup there, likely beginning in 2017 or 2018.

Locally, plans reportedly call for Warren Truck to be outfitted for uni-body construction in order to eventually build the Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

Production of the Chrysler 200 sedan would move to Mexico from its current location in Sterling Heights. But that void would be filled by production of the Ram 1500 pickup, which would be moved from Warren Truck.

Production of the Dodge Viper would stay at Conner Avenue Assembly in Detroit.

The last labor contract between the UAW and the Detroit Three was agreed to in 2011.

David Muller is the automotive and business reporter for MLive Media Group in Detroit. Email him at dmuller@mlive.com, follow him on Twitter or find him on Facebook.

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