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- Jim Higgins
February 20, 2007, 1:49 pm
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UAW, Big Three contract talks this year will be 'pattern breaking,' analyst
The United Auto Workers likely will be forced to give more concessions,
accept more layoffs and take more responsibility for pension and retiree
costs, according to Sean McAlinden, a top auto industry analyst said at an
industry conference in Ypsilanti today.
The UAW faces radical changes in this year's contract talks with the Big
Three, because of the domestic automakers' declining market share, its own
aging workforce and other factors, according to McAlinden. The analyst is
vice president of research at the Center for Automotive Research, which is
hosting today's seminar for about 150 industry members.
"The pillars of the UAW are under heavy attack by globalization," McAlinden
said. "The value of the product they build is lower. That means the value of
their labor is lower."
The UAW has seen itself in past negotiations as defining the middle-class
standard of living, and that stance is weakened, McAlinden said. This year's
bargaining, he said, will be defined by concession -- particularly in
lifting the burden of health care costs from the auto makers.
The threat of a general strike is less likely, the analyst said, because the
union lacks to clout to call one. Given the cataclysmic financial and
product issues faced by the Big Three, the workers are no longer in a
position to set the tone of the talks.
McAlinden said this year's negotiations will be "pattern-breaking." He
predicted that GM, Ford and Chrysler will continue restructuring and likely
announce more reductions in their hourly workforce.
"Benefits and pensions will dominate the discussions," he said.
"If they pull a knife, you pull a gun. If they put one of yours in the
hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue."
Sean Connery, "The Untouchables"
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