DETROIT (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers will attempt to negotiate simultaneously with all three major U.S. automakers toward a new labor contract this year, union President Bob King said on Tuesday.
Should the union’s efforts prove successful, it would mark a break from the so-called pattern agreement approach, in which the union and one automaker hammer out an agreement and the other two companies follow suit.
King said it is “possible” that contracts could be reached without the UAW selecting a “target” company to approach first, but he declined to say how likely that outcome would be this year.
“We haven’t made a final decision,” King said of the union’s strategy in the talks for a new four-year contract. The current one expires September 14.
“I would hope that we don’t ever get to the point picking a target,” King told reporters after a speech to the Automotive Press Association in downtown Detroit.
King said the UAW came close in 2007 to reaching an agreement as it talked to all three automakers simultaneously, when Ron Gettelfinger headed the union.
The UAW talked to all three automakers at the same time in 2007 until “pretty close to the end (when) it fell apart a little bit,” said King.
King has denied for months conventional wisdom by analysts who say that Ford Motor Co is the likely target company because the UAW can call a strike against Ford. The UAW cannot call strikes on General Motors Co and Chrysler after those companies went through their 2009 bankruptcies.
In 2007, the UAW clinched a deal with GM first and then moved on to concessionary deals with Ford and Chrysler.
The 2007 pact established the retiree healthcare trust fund known as VEBA that cut costs to the three automakers.
King noted that the UAW had to give concessions in 2007 to keep the three companies competitive with foreign automakers with lower costs that have set up nonunion U.S. plants.
King said all three U.S. automakers are doing much better than they were in 2007 and he restated the union’s goal of taking back some of the concessions its members made.
Reporting by Bernie Woodall, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Matthew Lewis