DETROIT (Reuters) – United Auto Workers President Sean Fine on Friday warned of more strikes at U.S. truck and SUV plants unless the Detroit Three automakers improve pay and benefits offerings, insisting the companies can afford more than the standard packages on offer. Table.
“We’re hitting the big three like we’ve never hit them before,” Fine said. “These highly profitable companies have a lot to offer.”
After five weeks of strikes, Fine said the UAW received new contract offers from General Motors (GM.N) and Chrysler parent Stellantis (STLAM.MI) in the past 24 hours. Ford (FN) made its latest offering more than two weeks ago.
Fine confirmed that the Detroit Three have agreed to a 23% pay raise offer and have made progress on other issues. But he told UAW members “there’s more to be won.” GM and Ford say additional cost-of-living increases have already raised their total compensation offers to more than 30%.
Fine acknowledged that some UAW members want to vote on the proposals, but he urged them not to give in to the “fear, uncertainty, doubt and division” that he said have been sown by companies.
While he warned of the potential for expanded strikes, Finn also told UAW members that the talks were nearing an end. “This is the hardest part of the strike,” he said. “Right before an agreement is reached is when there is a strong push to go the last mile.”
Shares of General Motors and Ford closed roughly 1% higher on Friday, before Fine spoke.
The union opened negotiations by demanding a 40% wage increase. Strikes at the three automakers began on September 15, and now more than 34,000 union members are launching the UAW’s first simultaneous strikes against the three Detroit companies.
Strong in Ford cars
The progress made in the talks on Friday followed the UAW’s surprise strike last week at Ford’s large truck plant in Kentucky, which generates $25 billion in annual sales.
Fine had described the Kentucky strike as a warning to General Motors and Stellantis.
Ford, which received the highest bid of the three companies, said it had reached the maximum of what it could pay and remain competitive.
Some of Fine’s strongest statements Friday were directed at Ford and Bill Ford, the company’s president and grandson of its founder, Henry Ford. For decades, Ford built a cooperative relationship with the UAW as a competitive advantage against GM and the former Chrysler, now Stellantis.
Fine declared that “the days of the UAW and Ford teaming up to fight other companies are over.”
He also pointed to Ford’s $600 million in fourth-quarter earnings, saying it would amount to about $1 an hour for all Ford hourly workers for the duration of the new contract.
“What Ford is showing us is that the money is there. They don’t want us to have it,” Fine said.
Automakers said the union demands would significantly increase costs and hamper their electric vehicle ambitions. Electric vehicle leader Tesla and foreign brands like Toyota are not unionized.
Ford said in a statement after Fine’s talk that it was “eager to conclude these negotiations,” citing the loss of wages and profit-sharing among workers.
Stellantis had no immediate comment.
Bill Ford warned that the strike was negatively affecting the automaker and the American economy. Economic consulting firm Anderson Economic Group estimated that total economic losses from the strike reached $7.7 billion, with the Detroit Three sustaining losses of $3.45 billion.
Ford Motor has not yet spoken about how electric vehicle battery factories it plans to build joint ventures with Asian battery makers might fit under the UAW master agreement.
On Friday, Fein did not mention battery factories. The UAW wants automakers to allow the union to organize their workers, dramatically raising their wages from current levels below assembly plant wage scales.
(Reporting by Joseph White in Detroit and Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit and Pratyush Thakur in Bengaluru; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh. Edited by Sriraj Kalluvila, Peter Henderson, and David Gregorio
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