The United Auto Workers union will aim to ensure that its members share in General Motors GM.UL, Ford Motor Co (F.N) and Chrysler profits in contract talks next year, President Bob King said on Monday.
The union wants the workers to share in the turnarounds at the U.S. automakers in a way that does not put the companies back in a cycle of uncompetitiveness that left them struggling in recent years, King said.
There are a number of different approaches to achieve that, including flexible compensation, whether it is profit-sharing (or) gain-sharing, King said in an interview with Reuters.
The union granted U.S. automakers sweeping concessions in a 4-year contract in 2007, including allowing the companies to hire entry level workers at $14 per hour, about half the pay for veteran workers. UAW workers agreed to more cuts as GM, Chrysler and Ford struggled during the downturn.
The UAW is expected to try to roll back some of those concessions in contract talks next year.
GM posted profits in the first two quarters of 2010, Ford expects a solid profit in 2010 after a full-year 2009 profit, and Chrysler has said it would be net profitable if it were not for the interest costs on loans from its bailout.
King, 64, who was elected president in June after leading the UAW's negotiations with Ford, said the auto industry crisis reinforced in the union the need to work with the automakers on quality, productivity and costs.
We know long term that is the only way we will protect our pensions, our jobs, our healthcare, King said.
The extent of the potential for a rollback in union concessions next year is a major uncertainty for investors ahead of GM's landmark IPO that is set for November.
Steve Rattner, the Obama administration's former point man on the auto bailout, said the UAW could be served well by some profit sharing arrangement but urged King to resist calls to seek a full rollback of concessions the union granted.
Unfortunately the reality is that these companies have to be competitive, Rattner told Reuters in an interview on Monday. I hope King sees the situation clearly.
OPEN TO FOREIGN INVESTORS IN GM IPO
King said the union was open to foreign investors buying into a GM IPO and expects GM and Chrysler to be able to repay U.S. taxpayer funding that supported their restructurings.
Our ultimate criteria is how do we make General Motors most successful, not where investors come from, King said.
GM filed registration papers in mid-August for an IPO that would allow the U.S. government to begin to sell its nearly 61 percent stake in the company and for the automaker to shed its Government Motors stigma.