Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Car workers continue contract talks



By John Porretto
The Associated Press

DETROIT - United Auto Workers representatives told their members that they were close to new labor agreements with General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. but that difficult issues remained as negotiations stretched on Monday.

The union announced early Monday it reached a tentative four-year contract deal with DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group.

The Big Three and UAW began talks on new labor pacts in mid-July, but GM and Ford were unable to reach resolutions before the contracts expired as Sunday's midnight deadline passed.

The union said workers for both companies will report to work as usual while negotiations continue. The UAW had hoped to reach simultaneous pacts with the Big Three as well as auto suppliers Visteon Corp. and Delphi Corp.

"We're very close to completing our work, but we're not done yet," Brock Roy, a member of the UAW's national negotiating committee meeting with Ford and Visteon, said in a telephone message recorded Monday for workers. "The UAW, Ford and Visteon have agreed to a three-day extension so we continue negotiating on a couple of very difficult issues."

Roy did not specify the issues, and representatives of the automakers and UAW have declined to discuss the talks substantively.

In a similar message posted Sunday night for GM workers, UAW negotiator Clyde Sims also said the two sides were nearing a resolution but declined to specify matters still on the table.

At a time when the U.S. market share for GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler is at an all-time low, analysts and labor experts have said the probability of a strike is low.

Details of the tentative agreement with Chrysler weren't released, but UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said the deal contains what the union hopes to see in the other contracts. The pact covers wages and benefits for 63,000 active workers and 66,000 retirees and surviving spouses.

The union and the companies have been negotiating on issues such as wages, jobs, health care and pensions that affect 300,000 workers and nearly a half-million retirees and their spouses.




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