US: Detroit automakers seem interested in UAW healthcare cooperation image

GM, Ford and FCA US seem to be interested in the United Auto Workers union’s idea of combining and integrating their separate healthcare systems into one entity, which is a sure sign that contract negotiations between the labor representatives and the carmakers is down to serious issues.

The UAW and executives representing the Detroit Three automakers have a September 14 deadline to wrap up the talks and ink a deal for the 142,000 U.S. workers. Increased healthcare costs because of new laws taking effect in a few years have emerged as a hurdle for pay increases to the factory workers. UAW’s president Dennis Williams has been a fervent proponent of the idea of axing the separate company-run healthcare plans with a combination covering all three manufacturers and powerful enough to snatch better agreements from healthcare providers. “We are talking to them about a co-op and it is an idea we support,” commented FCA US in a statement released Thursday. GM added, “The pressures of rising health care costs require collaboration to find creative solutions,” though it was less clear than their competitor in talking about the proposal. And earlier on Wednesday during an event Ford Chairman Bill Ford said his group was talking about it with the union.

Williams and other labor officials have said the increasing health costs, the salary system that allows new employees to paid way less than veterans, pension issues and the future investment in US plants were the crucial points of discussion to be addressed during the current contract negotiations.