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UAW will present improved contract to Fiat Chrysler workers

Fiat Chryler CEO Sergio Marchionne, left, and UAW President Dennis Williams.

Local leaders of the United Auto Workers have voted to approve a new, tentative four-year contract with Fiat Chrysler, after workers overwhelmingly rejected the first version last week.

Many workers were confused about the terms of the rejected contract, especially about the vague language describing a new health care co-op. 

The cooperative would have operated as a pool to gain lower prices for Fiat Chrysler's health care plans. But some workers thought the co-op was replacing their plans.

The new contract drops the co-op provision. UAW President Dennis Williams says the union will present the idea to workers at a later date, after doing a better job of explaining how it will work.

Many of Fiat Chrysler's lower-paid workers were also bitterly disappointed that the gap in pay with higher-seniority workers was not eliminated.

The new contract spells out an eight-year path to getting that highest wage ($28), although the contract itself is only for four years.

"The membership wanted a clear path," acknowledged UAW President Dennis Williams in a conference call with media. "They don't want to be considered second-class citizens."

The new contract also attempts to dispel workers' concerns that Fiat Chrysler might move production of its current vehicles to other plants, leaving them with nothing to build. 

The report to workers that outlines the new contract contains a general vision for each plant. Most plants will have "current workforce retained."

The union also promises to negotiate with Fiat Chrysler on a plant-by-plant basis over the issue of hated alternative work schedules, one of which requires workers to work days one week, and switch to nights the next week. The union says it will fight to eliminate such schedules when they are not necessary to meet demand.

Local leaders will conduct meetings to explain the contract to rank-and-file members beginning this weekend, with voting expected to begin next week.

The UAW has put its contract negotiations with GM and Ford on hold while the Fiat Chrysler contract remains unsettled.

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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