Ford CEO rebuffs UAW leader's criticisms as strike deadline on Thursday approaches

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Ford CEO Jim Farley speaks with media after revealing the 2024 Ford F-150 for the Detroit auto show on Sept. 12, 2023.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

DETROIT – Ford Motor CEO Jim Farley rebuffed comments by United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain that the company is not taking bargaining seriously ahead of a Thursday night strike deadline, placing blame on the union leader for not showing up to the bargaining table – both figuratively and literally.

Farley said the company has received “no genuine counteroffer” on its four economic proposals, including the latest offer that Ford is calling the most generous offer ever between the UAW and company. He also said Fain, who is simultaneously negotiating with General Motors and Stellantis, was absent during a Tuesday meeting that he and Ford Chair Bill Ford expected Fain to attend.

“We’re here, we’re ready to negotiate, but it’s sure hard to negotiate a contract when there’s no one to negotiate with,” Farley told reporters Wednesday night on the sidelines of the Detroit Auto Show. It’s difficult to negotiate without feedback. We still have some time, but we’re not getting any. “

Farley’s comments came roughly 24 hours after he told reporters Tuesday that he was optimistic the company could reach a deal with the union.

Public criticism between the union and an automaker aren’t unprecedented but the amount of detail being released, announced strike plans and simultaneous bargaining certainly are.

Farley said he didn’t know Fain had received the offer until he was discussing it during a 5 p.m. Facebook Live with union members. He also asked if Fain was too busy “planning PR events or strikes” to get feedback on the best offer. “

UAW President Shawn Fain chairs the 2023 Special Elections Collective Bargaining Convention in Detroit, March 27, 2023.

Rebecca Cook | Reuters

A UAW spokesman did not immediately respond for comment regarding Farley’s comments or a letter released on his behalf by the company countering many of Fain’s criticisms.

The union has argued the companies know their demands. The union has argued that the companies know their demands. They include: an ambitious target of 40% hourly increases, a reduction in the workweek to 32 hours, a return to traditional pensions as well as the elimination of compensation tiers. Ford was not included in the complaint. The union released a proposal on Wednesday that included some of the union’s demands, but not all. It included 20% wage hikes, a “deficient ” restoration of the cost-of living adjustment, a reworked formula for profit-sharing, 90-day progressions for “temp,” or “supplemental” workers to become regular, employees, and other benefits, such as paid parental leave and increased vacation days. ET Thursday deadline, Fain said the union will implement targeted strikes at certain plants against the Detroit automakers.

During his Facebook event, Fain said he believed strikes against the companies are “likely. “

To win, it’s likely that we will have to act. We’re prepared to strike these companies like they’ve never been struck before, Fain said. Ford did not make a good offer, so if there’s a strike it’s probably because Ford was unwilling to negotiate. We can only control what we have. We still have not received any genuine counteroffer.

On Tuesday, Bill Ford and I sat down with the union at the main table for a major offer. We learned that President Fain was not going to be in the room as we entered. Bill and I made a historically generous proposal to the UAW Ford negotiation team, because we had listened to their demands and cared about our employees. Ford:

* Significantly increased our proposal on wage increases;

* Offered Cost of Living Adjustments, or COLA;

* Fully eliminated wage tiers so that all employees can achieve industry-leading wages – and shortened to four years from eight years the time it takes hourly employees to reach the top wage. Ford:

* Significantly increased our proposal on wage increases;

* Offered Cost of Living Adjustments, or COLA;

* Fully eliminated wage tiers so all employees can achieve industry-leading wages – and shortened to four from eight years the time it takes hourly employees to reach the top wage;

* Increased contributions to in-progression retirement savings;

* Protected health care benefits that would continue to rank in the top 1% of all employer sponsored medical plans for lowest employee cost sharing; and

* Added more paid time off, with up to five weeks of vacation and 17 paid holidays each year (with the addition of Juneteenth).
The first we learned President Fain received the offer was on Facebook Live this evening. We are ready to negotiate and we will be here. We should be working creatively to solve hard problems rather than planning strikes and PR events.
Please remember that Ford, more than any other company, has bet on the UAW and treated the UAW with respect. We have shown tremendous support for the union. We have gone well beyond any contract language in adding jobs and investment.
The future of our industry is at stake. Let’s do everything we can to avert a disastrous outcome.
Correction: Ford CEO Jim Farley’s comment’s were made Wednesday night. This article was originally written incorrectly.