The post-recession success of the Detroit Big Three, along with the impending downturn in the automotive market, will be recurring themes in the upcoming negotiations between the UAW and the American automotive companies.
With the UAW contract with General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Ford set to expire in September, negotiations will begin to ramp up shortly. Experts believe the negotiations could be somewhat more contentious this time around than in previous years, as the UAW wants to avoid further plant closures in the United States, while automakers are desperate to cut costs and avoid a repeat of the 2008 industry crisis.
“The next four years are not likely to be like the past four years,” vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research, Kristen Dziczek, told The Detroit News in an interview this week. “A large portion of the workforce has not been through a downturn before. We all know bad is on the horizon.”
Reports indicate GM will rely on more temporary workers and contract workers going forward, which will help reduce employee healthcare costs. The automaker plans to argue that temp workers will actually be beneficial for the UAW in the contract negotiations, as it will enable the automaker to take better care of those remaining, full-time union employees. The UAW has traditionally balked at the idea of hiring more temp workers, as they cannot climb the ranks within the companies they work for.
There is also uncertainty surrounding the automotive industry due to electric vehicles. EVs have less moving parts and can be assembled using less hands, meaning automakers may need less production workers going forward. Autonomous vehicle technology could also change the automotive industry in a major way, inspiring some to rely on such ride sharing services instead of buying vehicles. All this will have to be taken into consideration amid the contract negotiations.
The UAW penned a research paper on EV production last year, The Detroit News reports, which indicated that electric vehicles could lead to job losses at ICE powertrain production facilities.
“EV powertrains are mechanically simple compared to ICE powertrains,” the paper, dubbed ‘Strategies for a Fair EV Future’ said. “This simplicity could erode employment in ICE engines, transmissions, exhaust systems and fuel systems, but could create employment in batteries, electric motors, electronics, thermal systems, braking systems and semiconductors.”
A symbolistic handshake marked the opening of the UAW-GM talks this morning. The union officially entered negotiations with Ford on Monday, while talk with FCA will begin later this week.
Source: The Detroit News