The United Auto Workers union won't agree to a new labour contract with Detroit car makers this autumn that shifts soaring health care expenses to workers, union president Ron Gettelfinger said on Monday, according to the Detroit News.

Reporting Gettelfinger’s speech to the Detroit Economic Club, the Detroit News said the union leader suggested the solution to skyrocketing health care costs is a national plan paid by a single source.

"Shifting costs on to the backs of workers is not the answer," Gettelfinger, who advocates a national health care plan administered by the federal government, said, according to the newspaper. "You can't fix the health care crisis in America at any one bargaining table, with any one employer or within any one industry."

The Detroit News noted that spending by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler on health care rose 14% to $8.2 billion in 2001 for 2.1 million employees, dependents and retirees.

Contracts covering 300,000 hourly workers at GM, Ford, Chrysler and suppliers Delphi and Visteon expire in September, the newspaper added.