The United Auto Workers (UAW) General Motors department has begun planning bargaining strategy and president Ron Gettelfinger has said the union would seek factory floor-level approval for any changes made in return for the federal bailout loan.
Deal conditions imposed by outgoing president George Bush required efficiency improvements at GM and Chrysler including measures such as ending the controversial ‘jobs bank’ that pays laid-off workers almost full wages.
The UAW has argued that recent foreign-owned ‘transplant’ factory actions to pay workers from temporarily shuttered production lines to carry out community work is effectively the same thing.
The outgoing administration demanded wage parity with the largely non-union southern transplants, greater flexibility from UAW workers and changes to new healthcare trusts.
The UAW had agreed in contract negotiations late in 2007 to set up those trusts to take some of the burden from the automakers, and had also agreed to a two-tier wage structure so that new hires started at lower pay.
The union had been asked to make more concessions than anyone else involved with bailed out automakers, including dealers and suppliers, Gettelfinger told a US auto trade paper.
He said the union was willing to help but the process was being slowed by confusing loan language and the absence of a federal point person or ‘car czar’ to clarify questions.
Gettelfinger told the paper his staff faced challenges to agree concessions by February, as demanded, and would not provide details.
“We’ll sit down and have discussions along the lines of things we could do in the contracts and have that ratified without opening the contracts,” Gettelfinger said.
The healthcare trust changes would require court approval, too.
But he signalled a willingness by the union to work with the automakers to ensure they got their loans.