Labour costs for union workers are much lower for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles than Detroit rivals Ford and General Motors, a disparity United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams has said he wants to fix.

FCA average wage and benefit cost for each production worker is about US$48 per hour, compared with about $58 per hour at GM and $55 per hour at Ford, a recent study by the Center for Automotive Research found, Reuters reported.

The pay and benefits costs among the automakers got "distorted because of circumstance," said Williams, referring to allowances the UAW granted for GM and FCA after those companies went through bankruptcies in 2009. "We’re going to try our best to get that in line, and we’re working on that.”

Williams reportedly did not elaborate on the strategy. The UAW has typically followed a basic "pattern" creating similarity on major issues in labour contracts among the three major US automakers.

"We believe in pattern bargaining," Williams told Reuters at a briefing at the UAW's headquarters. "The companies ought to compete on product, quality, engineering and process and not on the backs of workers."

FCA has hired more workers since the UAW approved a two tier wage and benefit structure when all three major US automakers were floundering in 2007. Significant hiring did not occur until after the UAW-automaker contract talks of 2011.

Williams said about 43% of FCA workers are on the second tier compared with about 28% at Ford and 19% at GM. GM has hired the fewest union workers since the two tier wage structure was established.

FCA and GM do not have a limit on the number of second tier workers they can employ. Ford is capped at 20% but is allowed to exceed that at some worksites.

Whether the cap is maintained at Ford and established at GM and FCA will be part of negotiations of the companies' separate four year labour contracts that begin next month, Reuters said.

In addition to narrowing the differences in labour costs among the three automakers, Williams has vowed to "bridge the gap" between the pay and benefits of the two tiers of UAW assembly plant auto workers.

Veteran auto workers have not had a raise in nearly a decade and make just over $28 per hour in pay while newer workers who make second tier wages get about $16 to about $19 an hour.

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