UAW Focuses on Ford After GM, Chrysler Talks Stall

Business Materials 16 February 2009 00:39 (UTC +04:00)

Ford Motor Co., the only major U.S. automaker not relying on U.S. government aid to survive, is the focus of United Auto Workers negotiations this weekend after talks with General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC stalled, dpa reported.

The union objected to GM and Chrysler proposals to modify a retiree health-care fund that UAW lobbyist Alan Reuther said Feb. 13 went beyond the requirements of the $17.4 billion U.S. Treasury loans. The government requires signed preliminary labor agreements by Feb. 17, though it hasn't said what the consequences would be of missing the deadline.

Ford continues talking with the union, said company spokesman Mark Truby, who declined to characterize the talks. The union is going to the strongest automaker first, as it usually does in contract negotiations, said a person briefed on the talks. GM and UAW bargainers returned to talks today, a person familiar with the talks said.

"What this reflects is that the UAW has a better relationship with Ford and feels that an agreement that suits both sides can be reached and can then be spread to the other automakers," said Harley Shaiken, a labor professor for the University of California at Berkeley.

The UAW halted serious negotiations with Detroit-based GM Feb. 13, a person familiar with the talks said. Chrysler is still talking with the union, though meetings haven't been substantive, said a person briefed on those discussions, in part, because union President Ron Gettelfinger has stayed at the Ford talks.

Ford had said it expected to receive whatever concessions the UAW granted GM and Chrysler, and Gettelfinger said last month that Ford likely would get similar concessions.