Monday, September 12, 2011

UAW seeks national deal

DETROIT — Signing bonuses, pay raises for entry-level workers and early-retirement buyouts may soon be on the way for about 112,000 U.S. autoworkers.

Since late July, the UAW and the Detroit Three have been negotiating a national labor deal to replace one that expires at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

On Saturday, for the third day in a row, UAW President Bob King was in and out of contract talks with General Motors in downtown Detroit. It’s another sign that GM will set the pattern for the Detroit Three.

GM’s agreement, the Detroit Free Press previously reported, is likely to add thousands ofjobs at U.S. plants, offer buyouts for skilled trades workers andenhance the profit-sharing formula. This week, GM applied for tax incentives that could helpadd up to 2,000 jobs in Wentzville, Mo.

Chrysler has been in lock step with talks at GM.

Meanwhile, talks lag at Ford, where economic issues have barely begun being discussed. The devil is always in the details.

And this year, autoworkers won’t be the only ones judging the first new contract with the Detroit Three since the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler and a massive restructuring at Ford.

Many others to weigh in

Taxpayers, Wall Street, the news media and political pundits across the nation almost certainly will be weighing in on any deal reached.

To win workers’ votes, Ford, GM and Chrysler will probably offer signing bonuses that could draw criticism if they are viewed as excessive.

Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., estimates that signing bonuses will probably be between $3,000 and $5,000 so that workers can recoup performance bonuses they gave up in 2009 and 2010.

An increase in entry-level pay, which King has said is his highest priority, also is expected to be offered. Although that would increase fixed costs, the union may take that cost out of the contract somewhere else.