Collective bargaining kicked off this week between the United Auto Workers union and Detroit’s Big Three automakers. While the Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles talks will be something to watch, it’s the General Motors teams that have everyone waiting in suspense.
GM aims to negotiate the closure of four U.S. plants in a massive restructuring announced this past November. The UAW, obviously, wants the plants humming again with new product allocations. It’s easy to see why negotiations are expected to be quite volatile. However, in her opening remarks at a ceremonial handshake event, GM CEO Mary Barra urged the union to work with the automaker to protect the future of both.
CNBC reported Tuesday on the comments from the meeting of both sides, which saw Barra and UAW President Gary Jones meet face to face at the automaker’s Detroit headquarters. She told those present “Today, we are at a turning point when it comes to the transformation of the industry and this company” and said, “our collective future is at stake.”
At the opposite spectrum, Jones promised a tough fight to “keep these union plants open and allocate more products here on American soil.” He promised the union will leave “no stone unturned.” Outside the meeting, 80 laid-off workers and union supporters from the Lordstown assembly plant in Ohio created a picket line at the Renaissance Center.
The negotiations will set wages and benefits for almost 160,000 U.S. auto workers and guide investment plans for each of the country’s domestic automakers. Aside from negotiating the closure of four plants, GM will likely use the talks to hash out lower healthcare costs. The union, meanwhile, will also address temp-worker policies and look to shave time off of a two-tier wage structure to bring more workers into full wages sooner.