UAW Ford Negotiators’ Video Says Givebacks Are Done – Wall Street Journal
On Thursday, the UAW’s Ford negotiating team posted a YouTube video insisting it wants the nation’s No. 2 auto maker to pay up. The video’s release, less than two weeks before the current four-year labor deal expires, is unusual because union officials typically don’t discuss bargaining demands during contract negotiations.
“This set of negotiations is different from the past two,” said Tim Rowe, chairman of Local 2000 representing workers at Ford’s Ohio assembly plant in Avon Lake, Ohio, on the video. “This round of negotiations will not be concessionary.”
UAW officials, including President Dennis Williams, have said that wage increases are due after a near-decade span during which senior workers haven’t received a base-wage increase.
With U.S. auto sales running at a decade-high pace, and car makers’ profits increasing amid brisk sales of light trucks, the union has said it is time to spread the wealth and potentially restructure the pay scale so that newer employees have a better chance of making more money. The current four-year contract covering 140,000 industry workers expires Sept. 14, and the UAW soon is expected to pick a target among the Detroit auto makers to conclude a deal by the expiration date. The Ford video isn’t an indication that Ford is its target this time.
In late August, UAW local offices across the country conducted strike authorization votes as bargaining tactics should talks break down, and the union generally received strong approval.
Ford’s average hourly U.S. labor cost, including benefits, is about $57 while Toyota Motor Corp.
’s is $48 and Nissan Motor Co.
is $42, according to Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Center for Automotive Research. The rate at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
NV, with a large percentage of entry-level staff, is $48. General Motors Co.
’s cost is about $55, according to the organization’s most recent estimates published earlier this year.
Senior factory workers make about $28 an hour, while entry-level employees top out at about $19 an hour. Health-care benefit costs can add between roughly $6 and $8 an hour, according to researcher CAR.
The Detroit Three for decades faced a larger gap in labor costs compared with foreign rivals. But concessionary deals in several prior negotiations, including contract talks and bankruptcy deliberations, helped lower the rate by addressing retiree health care, buying out tens of thousands of older workers and changing work rules.
The UAW’s apparent unwillingness to authorize additional givebacks will likely pressure negotiators to find other ways to trim labor costs. Mr. Williams, for instance, has been pushing for a restructuring of how worker health care is purchased, encouraging the three companies to combine their employees and retirees into one purchasing pool.
A UAW official had no comment on the video while Ford said it looks “forward to negotiating a fair and competitive labor agreement that enables us to continue providing jobs and investment here in the U.S.”
Worker reaction was mixed on a UAW-run Facebook
page with some calling the video a waste of time and others asking for the team to stand strong. One suggested the team bring a toothbrush to the negotiations so they can stay all night.
Write to Jeff Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org