DETROIT (April 27, 2011) — United Auto Workers (UAW) President Bob King said April 26 that the union has made no plans with any of the Detroit 3 to settle contract negotiations early.
Mr. King said recent media reports to that effect were erroneous.
“Relationships are really good. And we're going to try to problem solve,” said Mr. King, who spoke to reporters after giving a luncheon speech to the Automotive Press Association. “But there are a lot of problems and a lot of issues to work through so I don't know if it would be realistic to think that anything would get done early.”
The Detroit 3's current four-year labor agreements with the UAW expire in September. Mr. King said the two sides are meeting regularly and he hoped that the UAW would make enough progress with talks that it would not have to pick a specific car maker to be the first target of intensive negotiations.
As for executive pay, Mr. King said the $26.5 million in compensation for 2010 and the $56.5 million stock reward that Ford Motor Co. gave CEO Alan Mulally this year will hurt the auto maker's contract talks with the union.
He said the compensation raises bargaining expectations of the rank-and-file, who sacrificed to get the Detroit 3 back on their feet and are being watched to see if they will revert to a more adversarial stance.
Unlike UAW members at General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group L.L.C., Ford's 42,000 hourly workers can strike under the current contract.
“Alan Mulally is a good CEO. He's done a lot of good. But he has a blind spot,” Mr. King said. “He does not see the harm he's doing to his own cachet within both the hourly and salaried at Ford. What he's doing is making it more difficult for us for the upcoming negotiations.”
Mr. King said the UAW has had discussions with several nonunion Asian and German car makers operating in the U.S. about allowing fair union drives at their factories. He declined, however, to comment on the talks.
He also raised again the desire of the UAW to have board seats at the Detroit 3. He would not say whether that would be a priority in this year's contract talks. But Mr. King said worker voices in governance would only strengthen the companies.
That level of coziness, however, has received a cool reception from executives at the Detroit 3.
This report appeared in Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.