Strike The Strike: UAW-Chrysler Reach Deal

Detriot, MICHIGAN (CBS/AP) -- The United Auto Workers union said Wednesday it reached a tentative four-year contract agreement with Chrysler LLC after a daylong strike that sent thousands of workers to the picket lines.

Details of the agreement weren't immediately available. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said the strike would end immediately and workers should report for their next available shift.

"This agreement was made possible because UAW workers made it clear to Chrysler that we needed an agreement that rewards the contributions they have made to the success of this company," Gettelfinger said in a statement.

UAW members at 19 of 24 U.S. Chrysler factories and several other facilities left their jobs for the picket lines at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Among the major issues in the Chrysler talks were funding for a union-run trust that would handle future retiree health care bills; contracting out parts-trucking jobs; promises that future products will be built at U.S. factories; and parity with health care concessions that were given to Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. two years ago.

The UAW on Wednesday announced it ratified a four-year agreement with GM. The two sides reached the deal on Sept. 26 after a two-day strike. Ford will be the final automaker to bargain with the UAW.

Earlier, thousands of Chrysler LLC autoworkers walked off the job after the automaker and the UAW union failed to reach a tentative contract agreement before a union-imposed deadline.

It was the first UAW strike against Chrysler since 1997, when one plant was shut down for a month, and the first strike against Chrysler during contract talks since 1985.

The UAW apparently did not strike at five plants that Chrysler already had shut down this week because of sagging sales of some models, according to a person familiar with the walkout who asked not to be identified because the situation is in flux.

Brett Ward, a forklift driver at the Sterling Heights assembly plant in suburban Detroit, said he thought a strike was justified, but he hoped the union could get a better deal than the one it reached with General Motors Corp.

"Hopefully with a strike we'll get some better gains and get a better contract in front of us," he said.

The UAW, which must reach new four-year agreements with all three Detroit automakers, struck GM for two days before tentatively settling with the automaker on Set. 26. The union hasn't yet agreed with Ford Motor Co.

Chrysler has 24 U.S. manufacturing facilities, including 10 assembly plants. The automaker had already planned to idle five assembly plants and some parts making factories for short stretches during the next two weeks in an effort to adjust its inventory to a slowing U.S. automotive market.

Workers did not leave the Warren Truck assembly plants in Warren, Mich.; Newark, Del., assembly; Jefferson North assembly in Detroit; Belvidere assembly in Belvidere, Ill., and the Conner Avenue assembly plant in Detroit

A short strike likely will have little effect on the automaker, which had a 71-day supply of cars and trucks on dealer lots at the end of August, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank.

Talks between the UAW and Chrysler began in July but accelerated last weekend. The union set the 11 a.m. deadline to settle or to strike. The UAW represents about 45,000 workers at Chrysler's U.S. manufacturing facilities, making it the smallest of the Detroit automakers.

Chrysler was a wild card in this year's negotiations because it was bought by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP shortly after the talks began. DaimlerChrysler AG, which is now called Daimler AG, sold a controlling stake in the 82-year-old Chrysler to Cerberus in August. The firm has since hired Bob Nardelli, formerly head of The Home Depot Inc., to be Chrysler's chairman and chief executive. Chrysler Vice Chairman and President Tom LaSorda, who led Chrysler before Nardelli was hired, is representing the company in the talks.

Many industry analysts believe Cerberus will fix the money-losing Chrysler quickly, return it to profitability and sell it for a huge profit, perhaps to a foreign auto company that wants a stronger U.S. presence. It was unclear how Cerberus' plans for the company would factor in the talks.

The bargaining appeared to hinge on the UAW granting the same health care cost concessions to Chrysler as it did to GM and Ford in 2005, and on how much Chrysler would pay into a company-funded, UAW-run trust that would take on its roughly $18 billion worth of retiree health care costs. GM has already agreed to form such a trust.

Also at issue was the union's desire for job security pledges at U.S. factories and Chrysler's wish to contract out parts transportation now done by higher-wage union members, according to a person briefed on the talks. The person requested anonymity because the talks are private.

The union normally settles with one U.S. automaker and then uses that deal as a pattern for an agreement with the other two. But several industry analysts have said that Chrysler and Ford have different needs and therefore need different contracts.

Agreements must be ratified by UAW members to go into effect.

On Wednesday, the UAW said Wednesday it ratified a historic four-year contract with General Motors Corp.

Sixty-six percent of production workers voted in favor of a deal, while 64 percent of skilled trades workers approved it, the UAW said in a statement.


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