Officials of the United Auto Workers union and executives of Ford, the second largest US automaker formally initiated contract talks on Thursday, with the event having the specter of jobs going to Mexico.
Just this month, Ford said it would replace the production of the Focus and C-Max compact cars from a plant near their home town of Detroit after 2018, with UAW officials commenting the manufacturing would be moved to Mexico. UAW president Dennis Williams pledged he and his team would exert pressure on the automaker to make sure the Michigan Assembly Plant would stay open – with Ford’s manufacturing boss, John Fleming commenting the company had no strategy to close down any of its US factories. Last week on Friday the top UAW official also had an encounter with President Barack Obama and Labor Secretary Tom Perez at the White House to discuss environmental and safety standards for Mexican auto production. Williams hinted, “I have a plan” for improving the working conditions of Mexico’s auto workers he would start work on after the negotiations with the Detroit three are over.
Ford chief executive officer Mark Fields said the carmaker seeks a “fair and competitive labor agreement for both sides,” an attitude that was echoed by Williams and the union’s main Ford negotiator, Jimmy Settles. Also present on behalf of the company at the event held at a Detroit high school was Ford’s executive chairman, Bill Ford. The automaker’s executives are under pressure to secure competitive labor costs in respect to Japanese, German and Korean rivals that have manufacturing facilities in the southern US, which is out of the union’s influence.