Fiat Chrysler Resumes UAW Talks After Rejection by Workers

  • Workers voted down contract that gave raises, narrowed pay gap
  • Workers were wary on health-care plan, wanted tiers ended

The United Auto Workers union and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV have resumed negotiations on a new labor contract after UAW members voted about 65 percent against a proposed pact that would’ve granted raises to all employees and narrowed the pay gap for second-tier workers.

“We are talking,” Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in an e-mail. She didn’t elaborate.

UAW President Dennis Williams said Thursday in an e-mailed statement that “further discussions were needed,” without giving a timetable. Fiat Chrysler said last week it was disappointed in the vote but looked forward to a continued dialogue.

The rejection stalled Williams’s efforts to move on to winning tentative contracts with General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. Williams, who wanted the ratification by Sept. 28, sought to use the deal reached Sept. 15 with Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne to negotiate similar but more lucrative pacts from the other two companies. The UAW represents about 40,000 Fiat Chrysler workers.

The resumed talks will be a “nightmare,” Art Wheaton, a professor of labor at Cornell University, said in an interview. Workers have expressed their frustration with the pay raises, the lack of information about the new health-care plan and plant investments through their vote as well as through Facebook posts.

“I think this has just been a perception problem,” he said. “There was too high of an expectation from the members given the weak hand of profitability from FCA. I just don’t see them dramatically improving the offer.”

Raises For All

The Fiat Chrysler agreement would have boosted hourly base wages over the contract term to $29.76 at the senior tier and as much as $25.35 for the second tier, according to the UAW. The ratification bonus would have been $3,000. The automaker also had pledged to invest as much as $5.3 billion in the U.S.

Williams, in an update to members posted today on the union’s web page, warned the workers be wary of “outside groups” who “like to stir people up.”

“You, our members need to make decisions based on what’s best for you and your families,” Williams wrote. “No one else has to pay the price of a strike. No one else will lose a paycheck or a home.”

The union, which met with local leadership last week to hear the workers’ concerns, said it will start addressing those issues with detailed posts on the website and its Facebook page.

“We are going to continue to bargain on your behalf,” he said. “We are also going to tell the whole story. This is a very serious situation. I ask that you get the facts as we continue to address your issues.”

Fiat Chrysler shares rose 1.4 percent to $14.22 at 4:02 p.m. New York time on Monday.

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