June 18, 2007 / 4:54 PM / 10 years ago

Union sees need for Chrysler cost concession

DETROIT, June 18 (Reuters) - United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger said on Monday the union needs to find a way to grant health care cost-saving concessions to Chrysler Group DCXGn.DE DCX.N.

"We are talking with Chrysler quite frequently," Gettelfinger said in an interview on WJR-AM radio in Detroit. "We do need to find a way to fix the problem there now that Chrysler is in a downward mode."

Chrysler executives had been seeking a concession from the UAW similar to the groundbreaking deals clinched with General Motors Corp. (GM.N) and Ford Motor Co. (F.N) in 2005, under which UAW workers and retirees pay more for health care.

Gettelfinger last year declined Chrysler's request, saying the union's financial analysis showed Chrysler was in a stronger position than either of its larger, Detroit-based rivals.

Chrysler's German parent, DaimlerChrysler AG, recently announced it would sell a controlling stake of Chrysler to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP [CBS.UL].

Gettelfinger also said in the interview he was pleased with the discussions he has had with Cerberus and the private equity firm has a lot of confidence in the current management team led by Chrysler Chief Executive Tom LaSorda.

Chrysler, Ford and GM are preparing for the next round of major contract talks with the UAW to begin in mid-July.

The automakers are expected to look for wide-ranging concessions, including even lower health care costs, to help them compete against Asian and European automakers.

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