UAW 'making progress' with Fiat Chrysler ahead of Ford ratification deadline

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

The United Auto Workers is "making progress" in talks with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, the union's FCA Department director said Tuesday in a letter to local union leaders.

The update from UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada comes ahead of a ratification vote deadline of Friday at Ford Motor Co. Ford would be the second Detroit Three automaker to ratify a contract. Once it does, the union will focus its efforts on Fiat Chrysler.

"We are making progress and if UAW Ford ratifies, Acting UAW President Rory Gamble and the President's office staff will join us next week and work to finalize the UAW FCA bargaining," Estrada wrote. "While we intend to press forward to reach an agreement it is impossible to forecast how long this will take."

UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada

More: Follow the UAW-Ford contract vote

Gamble took over from UAW President Gary Jones last week when Jones went on paid leave three days after The Detroit News reported he is the unnamed "Union Official A" accused of embezzling and splitting $700,000 in members dues in a criminal information filing against his top aide, Edward "Nick" Robinson. Jones has not been charged, but 13 others have been charged in the federal corruption investigation into the union. Ten so far have been convicted.

Fiat Chrysler's 2015 agreement has been extended indefinitely, though either party can submit a three-day termination notice.

A majority of employees at nearly all UAW locals representing Ford employees, including Kansas City and Flat Rock assembly plants, so far have approved the contract. Only a majority of Chicago Assembly Plant's production employees have turned it down. The tentative agreement must receive support from a majority of members who cast a ballot to be ratified.

Ford's Sterling Axle Plant was voting Tuesday. Several major locals, including Local 600 in Dearborn and Local 862 representing employees at Louisville Assembly and Kentucky Truck plants, have yet to cast their ballots.

The tentative agreement includes $6 billion in investment in Ford's U.S. facilities. It also includes a moratorium on outsourcing and plant closures through the life of the four-year contract. The one exception is the closure of the Romeo Engine Plant; the 600 hourly employees who work there would be offered jobs at the Van Dyke Transmission Plant about 15 miles away.

The deal, like the UAW's newly ratified contract with General Motors Co., includes 3% wage increases in the second and fourth years and 4% lump-sum bonuses in the first and third years for eligible permanent employees, according to a UAW summary of the deal.

Permanent employees would receive $9,000 ratification bonuses — less than the $11,000 sum to GM employees who were on strike for six weeks, but more than the $8,500 Ford employees received in 2015. Ford's temporary employees would receive a $3,500 signing bonus; that compares to the $4,500 going to GM workers in the latest contract, and the $2,000 Ford workers got in 2015.

Under the proposed contract, on Jan. 6, 2020, all temporary employees with three or more years experience will receive full-time status. If a temporary reaches three years with the company in 2020 they will be promoted to full time. If a temporary employee reaches two years or more in 2021 they will be converted to full-time status.

In the proposed agreement, the UAW-Ford bargaining team was able to put a cap of 8% on the amount of temporary employees Ford hires company-wide and 10% at any given facility, unless otherwise approved by the national parties.

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble