United Auto Workers union negotiators said they will prevail in their contract talks with Ford Motor Co. as a deadline to strike a deal approaches.
"We believe now is our time," Mark Payne, president of UAW Local 1250, which represents workers at a Ford engine plant near Cleveland, said in a YouTube video. "We’re going to do everything we can to give a great contract to the membership but also to retain our competitiveness to where we can continue to bring work into America."
The UAW is facing a Sept. 14 deadline to negotiate contracts for more than 140,000 workers at Ford, General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s U.S. unit. After a decade of no raises for some workers, lower wages and benefits for others, the union has said it’s payback time for helping the automakers survive.
"The membership is owed something," said T.J. Gomez, president of UAW Local 387, which represents workers at a Ford stamping plant in Woodhaven, Michigan.
By contrast, Ford has complained its labor costs have ballooned above those of its domestic competitors because it isn’t subject to same wage system that enabled Detroit automakers to hire 39,150 workers in the past four years.
Ford’s average labor cost, including benefits, is about $57 an hour, or $10 more than at the U.S. operations of Fiat Chrysler or Toyota Motor Corp. and $2 more than at GM, according to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Still, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said Wednesday he is "optimistic" a settlement can be reached with the union.
"There are always issues and it’s early days, but I feel great," said Ford, who added that he has not yet visited the bargaining table as he usually does near the end of negotiations.