General Motors, the largest US automaker and the United Auto Workers union held the ceremonial event that signaled contract bargaining talks are now open on Monday.
The negotiations are set to establish the labor costs for the US operations of the automaker, the third largest in the world and could serve as the template for the rest of the Detroit Three – Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The kickoff on Monday was a testament to “harmony”, extending to the blue and white collar shirts used by officials present from each side. UAW President Dennis Williams and GM chief executive officer Mary Barra were present to stage the first of the three traditional “handshakes” that ritually launch the negotiations that will deliver the master labor deals for around 139,000 US plant workers at General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US. The carmakers are well established this year after the very robust recovery seen throughout the US automotive market since GM and Chrysler went through bankruptcy restructuring back in 2009. Still, the three Detroiters are raising the flags on climbing healthcare and pension costs they fear would serve to undermine their competitive edge acquired over the past four-year contract that is set to expire in September.
UAW President Dennis Williams commented during the Monday event his plan is to “bridge the gap” between new hires and veteran UAW workers, with the latter earning as much as $28 an hour to the former’s $16 to $19 an hour. He did add the union would see as a personal failure if it had to bargain with the three carmakers through strikes to secure a new contract.