* UAW says in 'confidential' talks with foreign carmakers
* Toyota, Honda, BMW deny talks with union over US plants
* VW U.S. plant execs also deny talks with UAW
* Nissan, Hyundai decline to comment
(Adds comment from Toyota official)
By Bernie Woodall
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich., Aug 3 The United Auto
Workers union is in talks with most of the foreign automakers
in the United States to represent the hourly workers at their
U.S. assembly plants, the union chief said on Wednesday.
"The vast majority of the assemblers here in the United
States have at least agreed to confidential discussions," UAW
President Bob King said at an industry conference in Traverse
City, Michigan. "We've had productive discussions. The last
thing we want is confrontation."
The language marks an escalation of claims about an
organizing effort that King and other UAW leaders see as key to
the union's survival. None of the seven major Asian or European
automakers with plants in the United States has confirmed talks
with the union that many industry leaders have blamed for the
Detroit automakers' uncompetitiveness in past years.
Despite King's comments, several foreign automakers with
U.S. plants denied they were in talks with the union,
King has said the future of the union depends on its
ability to unionize workers at U.S. plants owned by Asian and
European automakers. The companies are called "transplants" in
The UAW represents hourly workers at the three U.S.
automakers: General Motors Co (GM.N), Ford Motor Co (F.N) and
Fiat FIA.MI-controlled Chrysler. Last week, the union opened
talks with those companies for new labor deals.
The union has not been successful in getting any of the
non-U.S. automakers to agree to allow organizers into their
U.S. plants. A renewed effort to represent workers at those
plants was announced at last year's conference in Traverse City
hosted by the Center for Automotive Research.
UAW executives previously told Reuters the union was
talking with a lot of transplants and could see a deal by
year-end. King on Wednesday reiterated the target for reaching
its first deal beyond the Detroit three automakers.
UAW membership has dropped steadily since its peak in 1979
when it had almost 1.5 million members. Membership has fallen
42 percent since 2004 to about 377,000 at the end of last
Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) senior managing officer Real
"Ray" Tanguay, said that perhaps the discussions between the
foreign automakers and the UAW are not as serious as Bob King
would lead the press to believe.
"I think it's mostly in the greeting format," Tanguay told
reporters in Traverse City. "I don't know of any negotiations
between our company and the UAW."
The UAW has been reported in talks with German automaker
Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), which just opened a plant in
Chattanooga, Tennessee, but plant executives said they have had
no such talks. The executives did not know whether corporate
officials in Germany had been in talks with the union.
VW spokesman Scott Vazin said the company does not disclose
talks with third parties.
Honda Motor Co (7267.T) spokesman Ed Miller denied the
Japanese automaker was in talks with the UAW. "Honda's had no
dialogue with the UAW and we have no interest in a discussion
with them," he said.
BMW (BMWG.DE) spokesman Kenn Sparks also denied any talks.
"BMW has had no discussions with the UAW on this subject."
Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) and Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS)
declined to comment.
Officials with other foreign automakers with U.S. assembly
plants -- Daimler's (DAIGn.DE) Mercedes-Benz and
Hyundai-controlled Kia Motors (000270.KS) -- could not
immediately be reached.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Traverse City, Michigan;
writing and additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit;
editing by John Wallace, Dave Zimmerman, Gary Hill)