UAW, Big Three contract talks this year will be 'pattern breaking,' analyst says

UAW, Big Three contract talks this year will be 'pattern breaking,' analyst says
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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