UAW: Ford workers look favorably on terms of GM deal – Detroit Free Press
The new four-year agreement the UAW negotiated with General Motors might be rich enough to satisfy not only the 52,700 workers voting this week but also the anxious Ford workers waiting in the wings.
There were early signs that Ford workers have high expectations and could prove to be a cantankerous bunch, but the terms of the GM deal — which puts more money in workers’ pockets than the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles deal — may have a calming effect.
And there is a sense that if UAW Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles and his bargaining team can be satisfied, the deal likely will please the majority of the 52,900 members he represents.
“Jimmy has been around the block twice. He has credibility and people know he wouldn’t sign if it was not the best he could get,” said Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at University of California-Berkeley.
Settles has primed the pump. As the senior statesman of the 2015 talks, he positioned himself as the rogue, using Facebook messages and videos that promised raises in an attempt to recoup some of the compensation losses and concessions over the past decade.
“Now is our time,” Settles said of his determination early in the talks to negotiate a wage raise. “It’s just how much.”
But Ford workers were relegated to bridesmaid status since monetary talks started with Fiat Chrysler in September and then moved on to GM in October.
By the time Ford gets its turn to finalize details this month, a couple significant factors will have come into play.
One is that negotiation fatigue has been setting in. With the holidays approaching, workers want to get their signing bonuses and lock in raises.
The other factor is that the GM agreement is much richer than the FCA deal.
The terms of the original FCA contract landed with a thud in Ford plants across the country. Facebook lit up with howls of protest, and Ford workers began campaigning for a “no” vote if their deal followed suit, knowing the UAW uses pattern bargaining where the first contract serves as a template for the other companies to follow.
FCA workers rejected the first deal soundly and the two sides returned to the table. A second agreement addressed many of the workers’ concerns and was ratified. But Ford workers wanted no part of that one either and Settles reassured them again.
“It is imperative that you keep in mind that the (Fiat Chrysler) agreement is only a pattern and the tentative agreement reached with Ford will be UAW-Ford specific aimed at addressing concerns with the current agreement and securing gains for our membership,” Settles told members.
The negative social chatter is not as loud in the wake of the details of the GM deal, but there are still calls to hold out for more. Even workers at other companies expect Ford workers to pull in the best contract of the three.
“Ford will want bragging rights,” said FCA worker Ken Mefford who gets a $4,000 signing bonus and expects Ford workers to get about triple that.
Observers expect Ford to match GM’s $8,000 signing bonus, raises, path to equal pay within eight years and expand full health care to second-tier workers. Ford is also expected to follow GM’s lead in keeping the profit-sharing formula intact and not change it as FCA did.
One Ford union leader not authorized to speak publicly, said plant workers generally approve of the GM deal and appear willing to approve a similar deal. He figures about 75% are in favor which is in stark contrast to the few who approved of the FCA deal. He does not see anything in the GM deal worth striking over.
But there are also workers like Shawn Richardson of Cincinnati, who on Facebook encouraged his colleagues to hold out for more.
Richardson said he would not accept the GM contract if it were brought to Ford.
“We expect nothing less than a 5% raise to legacy workers for all 4 years,” he writes, as well as bringing all entry-level workers to the full pay scale in four years, a $10,000 signing bonus for all as well as $1,500 performance bonus or the return of a cost-of-living allowance, another $1,000 bonus every Christmas (for retirees as well) and the same benefits for all workers.
“GM and Ford are very distinct companies but similar in their strong financial performance,” said Shaiken.
GM reported third -quarter earnings of $1.4 billion with North American profits of $3.3 billion. Ford reported $1.9 billion in net earnings and $2.7 billion in North American profit.
“I suspect the Ford deal will track GM very closely,” Shaiken said.
One key difference: Mexico. None of the GM product or plant plans included plans to shift production to Mexico while Ford is moving assembly of the Ford Focus and C-Max out of Michigan. Most expect the work is going to Mexico.
Another difference is Ford’s limit on the number of entry-level workers it can carry on its payroll. Under the collective agreement, Ford is allowed to hire 20% of its workforce at a second-tier wage, with exemptions for in-sourced work, temporary workers and those employed at the Sterling axle and Rawsonville components plants, which brings the actual cap to 29%.
In February when Ford hired more workers, it exceeded the cap and started moving some workers to the higher rate. So far 825 have been moved up, said Ford spokeswoman Kristina Adamski.
The UAW feels its new path to full and equal wages for all makes a cap unnecessary.
Analyst Kristin Dziczek agrees.
“Instituting the cap in a market where sales production and employment are likely flat or falling over the next four years does not provide mobility for everyone to move up,” said Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group for the Center for Automotive Research.
A Ford labor leader said members are not in favor of the cap. “It divides people.”
Shaiken said he thinks GM workers will ratify their agreement and Ford workers will reach and approve a similar one.
Ford workers can be more cantankerous, he said, but they have also been through hard times and recognize the need for the company to remain competitive and invest in products as well as reward workers.
Contact Alisa Priddle: 313-222-5394 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AlisaPriddle
On Oct. 25 the UAW reached a tentative agreement with GM shortly before midnight.
On Wednesday it was approved by the UAW’s national council, details were released and local union leaders planned information meetings and ratification votes.
Early voting is mixed: on Saturday, Local 652 representing workers in Lansing Grand River voted 57% in favor while workers at Local 31 at the Fairfax plant, Kansas City. Ks., voted 63% no and skilled workers were 66% against.
Voting is expected to continue through this week.If the agreement is not ratified, the two sides return to the bargaining table. Once ratified, talks switch to Ford.
Highlights of GM deal:
Highlights of FCA deal: