Getting Ready For An Important Set of Auto Talks


INTERVIEW: Kristin Dzicek of the Center For Auto Research talks about the upcoming negotiations.

DETROIT (WWJ) With three weeks to go before the start of the 2011 auto industry contract talks, analysts are already expecting a creative settlement.

“All sides are telegraphing something on the front of variable pay,” says Kristin Dziczek, director of the Labor and Industry Group at the Center for Auto Research. “Variable pay that goes, ‘In good times they are sharing, and in bad times they get just the base wage.”

The difficulty, Dziczek says, is finding a way to reward auto workers for their sacrifices, while keeping the companies competitive.

The talks will begin the week of July 25th, aiming toward a mid-September deadline. The union traditionally begins honing in on one auto company around Labor Day. That “target company” gets to set the pattern that the others.

Complicating things this year, the 2009 bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler. Those companies both have no strike agreements. Ford does not.

Some analysts believe that makes Ford the likely target. Others say is makes it less likely that the union will target Ford.

UAW President Bob King has said he would consider negotiating with all three companies simultaneously.

Another big issue is the lower, second tier wage. It means more jobs. The union has said that it doesn’t believe that the two-tier system is going away. But, it could be looking to get more workers moved up to the higher wage scale.

Analysts say that King and his bargaining team understand the issues and the importance of keeping the major automakers healthy. But, they also have to educate a rank and file that will have to approve any deal.

“The union membership understands what they gave up to get this recovery underway, and would like that all back,” says Dziczek. “The union leadership understands that a profitable company, selling products people want to buy is the best guarantee of job security.”

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