Automakers grow frustrated over pace of UAW negotiations as new deadline looms

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Striking members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) picket outside the GM’s Willow Run Distribution Center, in Bellville, Wayne County, Michigan, U.S., September 26, 2023.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

DETROIT – Tensions are rising and accusations are flying between the Detroit automakers and United Auto Workers, as the union threatens to expand U.S. plant strikes – marking two weeks of work stoppages and the dwindling likelihood of an imminent breakthrough.

The UAW is expected to announce additional strike targets at 10 a.m. ET Friday, barring substantial progress by in negotiations with General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis for contracts covering some 146,000 autoworkers. UAW President Shawn Fain will host a Facebook Live event then to update members on the talks and identify additional strike locations, a source familiar with the talks said.

In the run-up, frustrations remain around key economic demands and what some see as a lack of urgency by the union to reach a deal, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

Specifically, GM and Stellantis have grown increasingly frustrated by a lack of participation from Fain and what they say are delays in receiving counter proposals from the union, sources said.

The union set a new Friday deadline before holding any high-level meetings between Fain and the companies, the people said, raising questions about the union’s commitment to reaching a deal and ending the strikes. The UAW had not yet submitted counter proposals for the offers that the automakers made a week prior to the Wednesday announcement. They said that such talks are few and far between because Fain is trying to negotiate with three companies simultaneously. “

A UAW spokesman declined to comment on the strategy, including on the union waiting a week to counter and giving Stellantis less than 24 hours to respond.

Concerns around the pace of talks follow similar claims by Fain and the union. Fain criticized automakers heavily for not providing counter offers to union proposals that were delivered to them in early August. Before initiating the strikes on September 15, Fain made similar claims. Ford, on its part, has offered to reinstate prior cost-of-living adjustments in order to offset inflation. The UAW, however, is demanding more, including 40% wage increases, an end to the “tier” system under which Ford, for its part, has offered to reinstate prior cost-of-living adjustments to offset inflation.

But the UAW has demanded more, including 40% wage increases, an end to the “tier” system under which new hires spend several years working up to full wages, a 32-hour workweek, and benefits including additional time off and insurances about electric vehicles.

About 18,300 workers, or roughly 12.5% of the UAW members covered by its contracts with the Detroit automakers, are currently on strike.

On the picket lines

In recent days, union members on the picket lines have reported confrontations, intimidations with guns, hit-and-run vehicle accidents and vandalism of vehicles and company property.

Five people suffered minor injuries when they were hit by a vehicle that drove through the UAW’s picket line while leaving a GM parts facility in Flint, Michigan, on Wednesday. The vehicle was being driven by a contractor working for GM in the facility. AFP / Getty Images

GM released a statement stating that three contractors including the driver had been banned from their properties. It urged its other contractors and salaried employees to follow established safety procedures when crossing a UAW picket line.

Separately, Stellantis released a statement on Thursday accusing the UAW of mischaracterizing other incidents that did not – contrary to statements by Fain – involve replacement workers, or so-called “scabs. “

We’ve seen an increase in dangerous and violent behavior by UAW workers at our parts distribution facilities since the UAW extended its strike last Friday. This includes slashing tires on trucks, jumping onto vehicles The company said it has not hired any outside workers to replace striking UAW members: “Only current employees who are protecting our business and third parties making pick-ups and deliveries as they normally would are entering our facilities.