Canadian Auto Workers union president Buzz Hargrove reportedly has called DaimlerChrysler‘s decision to sell the Chrysler group to Cerberus Capital Management a “worrisome” development for the automaker’s unionised workers.
“It’s very, very worrisome for us,” CAW President Buzz Hargrove told Reuters. “I don’t have any bone to pick with [Cerberus], but the whole point of private equity is not to grow the business over the long term and that’s what we need.”
Hargrove said CAW leadership would be briefed on the sale by representatives of Chrysler and Cerberus in Detroit tomorrow (15 May). “But I can’t imagine anything to convince me this is in our best interest,” he said.
His reported view contrasts with his US counterpart, United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger, who sits on DaimlerChrysler’s supervisory board and had publicly opposed the Chrysler sale, but on Monday hailed the deal as the best option in the circumstances.
“The transaction with Cerberus is in the best interests of our UAW members, the Chrysler Group and Daimler,” Gettelfinger said in a statement posted on the union’s web site and part-quoted in a DaimlerChrysler announcement of the sale.
The UAW, which represents about 50,000 Chrysler hourly workers, is set to start contract talks with Chrysler and the other Detroit-based automakers this summer to replace a four-year contract expiring in September, Reuters noted.
The CAW’s Hargrove said Gettelfinger’s endorsement of the deal might reflect his access to information as a member of the DaimlerChrysler supervisory board.
According to Toronto newspaper, The Globe and Mail, Chrysler employs about 11,000 people at its Canadian operations, which include vehicle assembly plants in the Ontario cities of Brampton and Windsor, and a Canadian head office in Windsor, just across the Detroit River from the world headquarters of GM.
Chrysler Group’s chief executive officer, Tom LaSorda, is a native of Windsor and son of a former union local president at the company’s Windsor assembly plant, the paper noted.
Reuters said the CAW represents about 10,000 Chrysler workers at the automaker’s factories in Canada, a number expected to fall below 9,000 by year end.
The news agency noted that analysts and union leaders have said Cerberus, or any other buyout firm, would likely move to cut jobs faster at Chrysler or sell off assets.
No specifics of such moves were given today at a press conference in Germany. Instead Cerberus chairman John Snow said Chrysler management would be encouraged to concentrate on the day to day basics of designing and making cars, with less emphasis on quarterly results.
Reuters added that Chrysler, which posted an operating loss of $US1.5bn last year, announced plans to cut 13,000 jobs in February when it was put up for sale.
Hargrove also told the news agency it would be important to see if closure of the sale to Cerberus hinges in any way on concessions from the UAW in contract talks. The CAW’s current contracts runs until 2008. DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche said in a conference call on Monday afternoon this was not the case, however.
“I was surprised this moved this fast. I did not expect that they would name a final buyer today,” the CAW chief told Reuters.