United Auto Workers Union Vice President Bob King confirms concession talks have begun with Ford Motor Co. but frowns over the prospect of negotiating a no-strike clause like the one enjoyed by General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC.
“The great thing about Ford is they never held a gun to our head, and we never held a gun to their head,” King says on the sidelines of an event in Dearborn, MI, to announce Ford will receive $5.9 billion in government loans to retool its assembly plants to build fuel-efficient vehicles.
“I think the partnership and relationship with Ford is most important,” he says.
Striking remains one of the UAW's most powerful bargaining tools, and many experts think GM and Chrysler could now be at a competitive advantage to Ford.
Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally confirmed recently the auto maker was in talks with the UAW about a no-strike clause, which GM and Chrysler won from the union before the auto makers filed for bankruptcy.
But King reiterated recent comments from UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, who has said unique situations at each of the Detroit Three require different approaches to ensure their competitiveness.
Most notably, Ford has staved off bankruptcy and, so far, taxpayer loans by loading up on billions of dollars in capital prior to the milestone new-vehicle sales downturn.
“We have moved dramatically to make all of these companies viable and profitable,” King says. “We were blessed with Ford, they got the loans early enough so we didn't have to go through the governmental process.”
King stops short of saying whether the UAW will reopen its 2007 contract with Ford to make concessions to the auto maker.
King also says his membership looks forward to helping Ford and its cross-town rivals build a profitable small car in the U.S., beginning next year with the launch of the next-generation Ford Focus C-segment car in Wayne, MI.
In the past, small cars built in the U.S. have been notoriously unprofitable for Detroit, partly because their labor costs were higher than those of their Asian rivals with non-union domestic operations.