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UAW Expected to List Security as No. 1 Issue

From Reuters

The United Auto Workers union is expected to place job security at the top of the agenda this week as it determines what demands to put to the Big Three auto makers contract talks set to begin this summer.

“Job security is going to be the No. 1 issue” of the union’s special bargaining convention, which began today, said Shearson Lehman Hutton analyst Joseph Phillippi. Delegates to the three-day convention will determine priorities for contract talks scheduled to begin in July.

The stakes are high for both the union and the auto makers.

The UAW, stung by a recent string of plant closings and idlings, badly needs to stem mounting job losses.

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The Big Three--General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp.--are confronted by excess production capacity, slumping demand and tough Japanese competition. They seek more flexibility to shut plants and hold down costs.

Inability to reach an agreement on job security could lead to a strike in the fall, analysts said, which would further cripple the already troubled domestic car industry.

“Any prolonged strike would be an enormous advantage to the Japanese” auto makers in the United States, said B. J. Widick, a labor expert and retired professor of industrial relations at Columbia University.

However, Widick added, both sides are reluctant to risk a strike, which in addition to helping the Japanese would disrupt carefully nurtured cooperation between the union and auto makers.

Still, recent polls indicate that job security is one issue over which UAW workers are willing to strike. National agreements covering the UAW’s 500,000 Big Three workers expire Sept. 14.


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