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Ford, UAW start optimistic contract talks

Ford Motor Company

The United Auto Workers and Ford Motor Company are officially in talks for their next four-year contract.

This time, the kickoff ceremony was held off Ford and UAW premises, at Cass Tech High School. The site was chosen to highlight Ford and the UAW's team effort to help the Detroit community.

"Ford Motor Company has done very well," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "And we're so happy to be here under them conditions," adding, with a smile, "and we'll be reminding them of that daily."

Williams said the talks will result in a contract that improves the lives of union members, while protecting the company's competitiveness. He said one issue will be securing new products for the Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne. 

Ford says it will move production of the plant's current vehicles, including the Focus, to Mexico.

"We are not going to leave members behind," said Williams. "Ford Motor Company knows that. And they're not that kind of company."

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said he's been involved in the contract negotiations 1982, and a lot has changed since then.

"Back then, we didn't have the trust that we have now.  We didn't have the transparency that we have now."

The event at Ford follows last week's contract kickoff at General Motors and Fiat Chrysler.

Analysts believe the talks with Fiat Chrysler could be the most problematic. The automaker has the highest number of workers being paid the "tier two" wage, which is about half what more senior workers make, and the UAW says it wants to bring more tier two workers into the middle class.

FCA is the least able to sustain a strike of the Detroit Three, but Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne warns that the next contract needs to be sustainable in bad times as well as good times. 

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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