Sunday, October 1, 2023

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) -United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain said on Tuesday the union was seeking ambitious benefit increases in contract talks with the Detroit Three automakers, including double-digit pay rises and defined-benefit pensions for all workers.

The UAW presented its economic demands to Chrysler-parent Stellantis on Tuesday and will make presentations to General Motors (GM) Wednesday and Ford Thursday ahead of the Sept. 14 expiration of the current four-year contracts, Fain said.

They include proposing to make all temporary workers at the U.S. automakers permanent, placing new strict limits on the use of temporary workers and increasing paid time off.

Fain also wants increases in pension benefits for current retirees and to ensure all workers get defined-benefit pensions.

The union leader, in Facebook Live remarks, called the demands “the most audacious and ambitious list of proposals they’ve seen in decades.”

Fain said the CEOs of the Detroit Three saw their pay rise by 40% on average over the last four years.

He singled out GM CEO Mary Barra, who received $29 million of compensation in 2022, and said it would take an entry level worker at a GM joint venture battery plant 16 years to earn as much as she made in a week.

Fain listed numerous demands, including restoring retiree health care benefits and cost of living adjustments. He also said the UAW was proposing to have the right to strike over plant closures and to eliminate the two-tier wage system under which new hires earn 25% or more less than veteran employees.

He noted the Teamsters recently won an end to two-tiered wages in a new contract with UPS. “It’s wrong to make any worker a second class-worker. We can’t allow it any longer,” Fain said of the demand for the same at the Detroit Three.

Stellantis said it had a “very productive meeting” with Fain and the bargaining committee and would review the union requests to understand how they aligned with company proposals and where common ground could be found.

“We are not seeking a concessionary agreement,” Stellantis said.

GM said it would review the demands once they were received from the UAW on Wednesday.

Ford said it looked “forward to working with the UAW on creative solutions during this time when our dramatically changing industry needs a skilled and competitive workforce more than ever.”

Fain also said the Detroit Three need to pay better wages for workers at battery joint venture plants and praised Democratic senators last week for urging the companies to include those workers under the master agreements.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Jamie Freed)


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