DETROIT (Oct. 11, 2007) — The United Auto Workers (UAW) has negotiated a new labor contract with Chrysler L.L.C. that covers 45,000 hourly workers.
The deal will put a quick end to the strike launched at 11 a.m. Oct. 10 by the union. In a press release issued yesterday evening, the UAW announced that Chrysler workers would return to their jobs on the next available shift.
“This agreement was made possible because UAW workers made it clear to Chrysler that we needed an agreement that rewards the contributions they have made to the success of this company,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.
The two sides agreed to establish an independent retiree health care trust, according to a statement released by Chrysler President Tom LaSorda.
Other details of the agreement were not immediately available. However, the deal is expected to follow patterns set by the UAW's new contract with General Motors (GM) Corp.
Prior to the walkout, nearly round-the-clock bargaining since Oct. 5 had failed to bring an agreement. The private equity owner of Chrysler, Cerberus Capital Management L.P., wanted concessions at least as good as those won by General Motors (GM) Corp.
“The national agreement is consistent with the economic pattern, and balances the needs of our employees and company by providing a framework to improve our long-term manufacturing competitiveness,” Mr. LaSorda said in the statement.
The UAW settled with GM after a one-day strike. Assuming that Chrysler workers ratify the deal, the union next will negotiate a pact with Ford Motor Co.
The UAW and Chrysler conducted their whirlwind negotiations under tight wraps and many workers said they were concerned about what concessions the union had offered up.
“It's good that the strike is over, but now I'm apprehensive,” said James Mosley, 55, a Chrysler veteran of 35 years in Kenosha, Wis. “What I want to know is what we got and what we had to give up.”
It remained unclear when the UAW would begin briefing union locals on the terms of the agreement or when ratification votes would take place.
Chrysler also said the deal was subject to review by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC must sign off on GM's arrangement with the UAW as well.
The settlement came as a surprise after it appeared the two sides had stopped negotiating by midday. UAW and Chrysler officials had engaged in marathon talks for the last several days.
David Cole, chairman of Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., said it would be important to see how the Chrysler deal differed from the GM contract.
“I don't think the union would sign anything unless it has what they needed,” he said.
The short strike may have helped spark the quick settlement, he said.
“Sometimes it is necessary to raise the focus a little bit as getting this kind of contract ratified is very difficult,” Cole said.
Neither Chrysler nor the UAW issued any public statements after the strike began this morning. Typically, unions quickly issue highly critical statements against management once a strike begins. Chrysler said it wouldn't comment on the strike until the UAW did so.
A strike would have limited short-term impacts on the No. 3 U.S. auto maker. Most car dealers have been well stocked with inventory. The only significant concern was the launch of Chrysler's new minivans.
Parts shortages earlier Oct. 10 forced a short closure of Chrysler's plant in Windsor, Ontario, which makes the all-new version of Chrysler's highly-touted minivans.
The short-lived strike shut down 20 of the auto maker's plants. The union purposely excluded five plants that were in temporary shut-down due to excess inventory in an attempt to increase the financial cost of the strike for the automaker.
Chrysler was taken private by Cerberus in August in a $7.4-billion deal. Former parent Daimler A.G. retains a stake of about 20 percent.
Chrysler's U.S. sales have slipped 3 percent through September, in line with a slump in the broad market. The company ranks behind GM, Toyota and Ford Motor Co. in U.S. sales.
The last UAW strike against Chrysler took place in 1997.
In a statement issued shortly after the strike, ratings agency Standard & Poor's said that based on the UAW's recent agreement with GM, it expected Chrysler and the UAW to reach an agreement soon.
“Despite today's strike, we remain mindful of the potential positives that could result from an agreement,” Standard & Poor's said in a statement.
Reuters contributed to this report.