UAW-FCA deal appears headed toward ratification

Michael Wayland, Melissa Burden, and Michael Martinez
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The United Auto Workers and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV appear to have a new four-year contract, according to voting results compiled by The Detroit News.

Results tallied from 12 major UAW local chapters representing more than 34,000 of the 40,000 workers covered by the contract suggest it is mathematically impossible for the deal to fail. Majorities at every one of those dozen plants approved the deal.

At several plants, more than 70 percent of ballots were cast in support of the pact. The closest voting in results available early Thursday was at Toledo Assembly Complex, where 55 percent of production workers and 52 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes.” Production workers at all major assembly plants in Metro Detroit supported the deal by at least 70 percent.

The UAW is expected to announce official results Thursday morning — exactly three weeks after official results were released for a first deal that was shot down by 65 percent of the membership.

“I think the second version of the tentative agreement addressed many of the workers’ concerns and that’s evident in their strong ratification,” said Kristin Dziczek, director of the industry and labor group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. “There was a clearer path to top-tier wages for the current second-tier workers.”

A second rejection would have been unprecedented in the modern automotive industry. The union will now have to decide to shift attention to General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. or both.

Many Fiat Chrysler workers voiced opposition to the first deal because it did not bridge a gap between entry-level and veteran workers. They were concerned about a lack of detail on product plans at plants and a proposed health care co-op. Many were angry about a lack of communication with members.

The main changes from the rejected deal include a path that over time would end the a highly contested two-tier pay system; a new profit-sharing formula; and a bigger ratification bonus for veteran workers.

“It’s a little bit better,” Jeannetta Thompson, a second-tier worker at Warren Truck Assembly Plant, said Tuesday. “You can’t expect to get everything all at once.”

Under the new agreement, second-tier workers would be boosted in steps over eight years to about $29 an hour or more, depending on the job — the same as veteran first-tier workers. The $30 rate is an increase from $25.35 under the rejected contract, and is $10 more than their current ceiling of $19.28 an hour.

Some veteran, or tier-one, workers have said they aren’t completely pleased with the second deal because there were very few improvements for them.

“I think it’s better than the last one,” said Chris Pilarski, a 35-year veteran worker at Warren Stamping. “I don’t see how it came about so fast.”

The second tentative deal was reached between the sides just before a union-imposed strike deadline on Oct. 7 – a week after the first agreement was voted down by workers two-to-one.

The original deal, which Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne called “transformational,” was reached Sept. 15, a day after the 2011-2015 contract expired.

GM and Ford have continued to wait for their turns at the bargaining table since indefinitely extending their contracts on Sept. 14.

Stephen A. Brown, senior director of corporate finance for FitchRatings, earlier this week told reporters in Detroit that he was hoping for quicker resolution with the other automakers but notes it has been a challenge. He said he was surprised when FCA workers voted down the first contract, especially by such a large margin.

“One of the concerns I guess is just the fact that the UAW leadership has been very clear about wanting a little bit richer contract from Ford and GM, given their better financial position,” he said. “But Ford and GM are both very clear they don’t want to see their cost structure become even less competitive than they feel it is today.”

GM Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens told reporters Wednesday that GM has different “operating circumstances” than Fiat Chrysler.

“We have demonstrated the ability to work with the UAW in a constructive way,” he said. “And when it’s our turn, we expect that we’ll engage in a constructive way to come up with a contract that meets the needs of the business, the employees and all the stakeholders.”

“I’d be really surprised if the next one doesn’t come really quickly,” Dziczek said. “They haven’t been twiddling their thumbs waiting for FCA to finish up.”

Here are voting results obtained by The News as of late Wednesday:

■UAW Local 7, which represents Jefferson North Assembly: 86 percent of production and 66 of skilled workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 12, which represents Toledo Assembly Complex: 55 percent of production and 52 of skilled workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 140, which represents Warren Truck: 70 percent of workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 372, which represents Trenton Engine: 73 percent of production and 70 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 685, which represents several plants in Indiana: 55 percent of production and 52 percent of skilled workers voted “yes” (according to media reports).

■UAW Local 723, which represents employees at Dundee Engine: 91 percent of production and 85 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 869, which represents Warren Stamping: 82 percent of production and 66 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 1166, which represents Kokomo Casting: 89 percent of production and 90 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 1264, which represents Sterling Stamping: 84 percent of production and 64 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 1268, which represents Belvidere Assembly: 83 percent of production and 62 percent of skilled trades workers voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 1435, which represents Toledo Machining: 63 percent of production and skilled trades workers, 100 percent of office and clerical workers, and 95 percent voted “yes.”

■UAW Local 1700, which represents Toledo Assembly Complex: 78 percent of production and 66 of skilled workers voted “yes.”

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