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Labor experts say UAW, Ford contract talks won't be easy

UAW GM workers striking with signs
Katie Raymond
Michigan Radio

With the strike against General Motors now in the rear view mirror, the United Auto Workers has turned its attention to Ford to reach a new contract with that company.

Wayne State University professor of business Marick Masters says the union uses the first contract it reaches as a pattern for the other two Detroit automakers during talks.

And he doesn't think the union is going to be willing to diverge very much from the terms of the GM contract.

"I think that they're gonna be very insistent," says Masters, "so whatever Ford agrees to is going to be very expensive."

The contract with GM will likely increase its labor costs over the next four years. 

But the union agreed to GM's plan to close three plants in the U.S., which will reduce its overall costs, saving it billions.

Ford may intend to close a plant in Canada. But Masters says that there aren't any in the U.S. that the automaker has plans to close.

"Ford is going to have to find other ways of generating the cash to pay for what will be very expensive provisions of this agreement," says Masters.

And analysts believe the union's upcoming contract talks with Fiat Chrysler could be more contentious than those with Ford.

That's because Fiat Chrysler has a larger proportion of "in-progression" workers (those making less than the top wage) and temporary workers.

GM agreed to more swiftly move in progression workers to the top wage, and it also agreed to hire temporary workers who have been with the automaker more than three years.

Fiat Chrysler could balk at those terms, say observers, which could increase the risk of a strike.

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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