UAW Officials OK Tentative Contract

From Reuters

Plant-level United Auto Workers officials Monday unanimously approved a tentative new contract with DaimlerChrysler that gives typical U.S. assembly workers economic gains of more than $29,300 over the life of the four-year deal.

UAW President Stephen P. Yokich said the union is getting back in better job security, improved wages and pensions what it gave up to the former Chrysler when the No. 3 U.S. auto maker needed the concessions to survive in the early 1980s.

"It's our turn now that things are good," Yokich said at a news briefing. "We have a sustained economy and everything. We believe that because of the raises and everything there, we're just getting our share of what we accomplished by working together in the past."

The 75,000 UAW members at DaimlerChrysler are scheduled to vote Saturday on the tentative agreement, reached Sept. 16. Yokich said he does not expect that General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. will balk at agreeing to terms in the pattern-setting DaimlerChrysler agreement. However, the UAW leader called Ford's first offer "an insult to our intelligence."

The DaimlerChrysler pact would give hourly workers a 3% base wage increase in all four years and a $1,350 lump-sum upfront payment. The hourly base pay for the typical U.S. assembly worker would rise from $20.11 currently to $25.39 at the end of the fourth year.

The agreement bolsters job-protection measures by requiring the company to hire new workers as soon as employment levels fall below certain levels for whatever reason. DaimlerChrysler agreed to hire one new worker for every one that leaves when employment falls below 80% of a given employee group.

The deal also includes pension incentives for qualifying workers who want to leave after 30 years. Those UAW members can leave any time during the four-year contract and receive credit for staying all four years. The improved so-called "30-and-out" benefit pays $2,730 a month in the final year.

In what poses a headache for Ford, DaimlerChrysler agreed to a sweeping plant-closing moratorium, which the UAW called "one of the most significant achievements of these negotiations."

The Stuttgart, Germany-based auto maker, in a letter signed by board of management member Heiner Tropitzsch, also agreed to remain neutral in UAW organizing efforts at DaimlerChrysler's nonunion U.S. plants.

Meantime, the Canadian Auto Workers said Monday there is a 65% chance a deal will be reached with Ford's Canadian operations by the strike deadline of midnight Eastern time tonight. A strike in Canada would cut off production of Ford's Windstar minivan, hurt full-size pickup truck output and deprive the company of V-8 and V-10 engines it needs for numerous truck products.

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