Happy with the sales results, the US big three might grow autoworker bonuses image

Good news for the folks working at GM, Ford and Chrysler, as the automakers are preparing to reward U.S. hourly workers with another huge pot of profit-sharing checks, due to North American manufacturing operations approaching peak efficiency.

The trio will next month announce specific, per-worker profit-sharing totals along with their 2013 financial results. Based on automakers’ anticipated earnings for the year, industry analysts believe more than $800 million in profit-sharing checks will go out to about 130,000 workers.

The combined per-worker total is on track to top the record of $17,875, set in 1999. White-collar workers are not part of the United Auto Worker’s profit-sharing agreement with automakers, but are likely to receive bonus payments.

In Michigan, which is home to nearly half of the Big Three’s U.S. hourly workforce, the combined payout could reach $400 million, surpassing the combined economic benefits of Super Bowl XL in 2006, which generated $274 million; the 2005 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which brought in $52.5 million; and the recent Winter Classic festivities, which brought in about $30 million.

The latest profit-sharing formula, developed as part of contract negotiations between the Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers in 2011, has acted as a pseudo-annual raise for longtime hourly workers, who haven’t received a yearly pay raise in a decade. Younger, less-experienced workers, who begin at half the hourly rate of veteran employees, see small wage increases based on tenure at their respective automaker.