Talks began today, between the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) for the next labor contract between the two organizations. Recently named FCA COO Mark Stewart and UAW President Gary Jones opened contract talks with a ceremonial handshake at an event at FCA US Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
Stewart addressed the need to find more innovative ways to prepare FCA for the next four years and beyond. “Our industry is undergoing a massive transformation – one more profound than any since cars for the masses burst on the scene more than 100 years ago,” he said. “It is a transformation driven by disruptive technologies and by society’s realization that we need to protect the environment for the next generation.”
Stewart discussed his experience across a variety of industries and acknowledged the hourly workforce for embracing World Class Manufacturing (WCM) – FCA’s production system and culture of safety, flexibility, and efficiency.
Jones speaking for the UAW employees addressed the demands of the union workers with the following statement.
“So, today I come with a message from my UAW Brothers and Sisters. Since the 2015 negotiations, FCA has seen enormous gains in profits. Profits made possible by the UAW workforce. And I have heard loud and clear at every FCA plant and local I visit. My Brothers and Sisters who build these cars and trucks and SUVs and who stood by this company and made sacrifices to ensure its survival, expect to share in those profits”, said Jones.
He went on to say, “When you needed us, we were there, and we expect no less in return. We all know that we’re seeing record profits among our American auto companies. In fact, the Big Three are more profitable in North America than any of their competitors. You all have the home advantage. That advantage is built every day in your plants by our members. But I am sorry to say, that despite billions of dollars in corporate profits, we’ve been watching a Race to the Bottom over the past several years for working men and women in this country”.
Stewart stated, “Every day, our employees demonstrate creativity in finding solutions and rising above challenges to better themselves, support their colleagues, and provide for their families and their loved ones.” But Stewart cautioned that it is important to remember the lessons learned in bankruptcy. “We cannot and will not repeat the actions that put us in that dangerous financial position,” he said. “We cannot return to the old ways of doing business or we risk seeing the same result. We are committed to negotiating an agreement that will enable continued investment in our future together and create opportunities for our employees, their families, and the communities where we live and work,” Stewart said.
Jones went on to say, “In this time of corporate prosperity, labor is still being asked to take concessions. Cuts in benefits, retirement security in jeopardy, job loss, wage loss, outsourcing, more and more temporary workers, jobs shifted to Mexico and China. THIS MUST STOP. With this year’s negotiations, we will halt that Race to the Bottom. We will protect our work, our jobs and our way of life. We will call on FCA to protect our jobs and allocate product at Belvidere, Kokomo or in any location where (the) product is not yet allocated. And we want every location to continue to grow the FCA membership, who produce some of the finest and best quality vehicles in the world”.
The two organizations will have a lot to talk about with the growing cost of health care for FCA union employees. FCA wants to limit the growth of wages and health care costs of its employees, in order to remain competitive against foreign automakers (Honda, Nissan, and Toyota) who have manufacturing plants in the United States and aren’t unionized. The UAW, on the other hand, is focused on ensuring wage increases, limiting the number of temporary workers, and continuing product commitments are plants such as Kokomo and Belvidere.
Both sides have also discussed the future of the auto industry in the past, with the growth of self-driving and electrified vehicle technology. FCA and the UAW, both want to make sure that their sides are protected to prevent another industry downturn like what happened in 2009.
As for the rest of the Big Three, Ford started talks yesterday with its UAW officials and General Motors (GM) met today to start discussions. The UAW represents about roughly 156,000 workers between FCA, GM, and Ford.
FCA’s current contract with the UAW expires at 11:59 p.m. on September 14th, 2019.