UAW's King calls Ford CEO compensation "outrageous"

DETROIT Tue Mar 22, 2011 7:49pm EDT

United Auto Workers International President Bob King addresses the media in Lansing, Michigan October 28, 2010. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

United Auto Workers International President Bob King addresses the media in Lansing, Michigan October 28, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Rebecca Cook

DETROIT (Reuters) - United Auto Workers union President Bob King said recent compensation awards for Ford Motor Co (F.N) Chief Executive Alan Mulally are "outrageous" at a time when some workers who make Ford vehicles earn $15 per hour.

"I think Alan Mulally has been a great CEO and I don't think any human being in the world deserves that much money," King told reporters after the first day of a three-day strategy conference for the UAW on new contracts for auto workers with Ford, General Motors Co (GM.N) and Chrysler. Current contracts expire in September.

"I like Alan Mulally but I just think it's morally wrong," said King. "And so will that give us more traction and more support to the membership to make sure that they get a very substantial size of that? Sure it will."

King said of stock bonuses of over $50 million awarded recently to Mulally, "I think it's outrageous, especially when there is so much poverty in this country and there are so many workers working extremely hard in the parts supplier sector and in temporary status at Ford."

Mulally is highly praised at Ford and in the auto industry for turning around Ford's fortunes since becoming CEO in 2006 without resorting to a U.S. government-sponsored bankruptcy as did GM and Chrysler.

In 2007, the UAW contracts with the three Detroit automakers allowed a wage of less than $15 per hour, about half of what veteran UAW hourly employees were paid, as parts of a concessions package to make domestic automakers more competitive during hard economic times.

King said the union this year will have to decide the point at which some concessions from 2007 can be taken back while still keeping the U.S. automakers competitive.

King said that the trend for companies to hire temporary workers instead of full-time ones is a global trend, but in a speech he made earlier on Tuesday, he once again singled out Ford for criticism.

"I used Ford as an example today because of the glaring disparity between those workers" and others who work full-time at Ford, he said.

Temporary workers "played a critical role in the success of Ford and they deserve decent middle class wages," King said.

King said his comment on Mulally's compensation does not mean Ford will be the "target," of upcoming negotiations in which the UAW enters talks with one automaker that set the pattern or general outline for talks with the other two.

King said he has not chosen either the U.S. automaker to be the first the union will negotiate with or which non-U.S. automaker will be targeted when the union intensifies its efforts this year to organize non-U.S. auto companies that have U.S. plants.

Chrysler exited bankruptcy under the management control of Italy's Fiat SpA FIA.MI.

(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)