Saturday May 25, 2024

UAW president says strike in ´new phase´ as it enters 5th week

Published : 15 Oct 2023, 00:25

  DF News Desk
An auto worker holding placards takes part in a strike in Belleville, Michigan, the United States, on Sept. 22, 2023. File Photo: Xinhua by Val Waller.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) is ready for more walkouts against three major U.S. automakers "with little notice," the chief of the union said Friday, reported Xinhua.

"We are prepared at any time to call on more locals to stand up and walk out," UAW President Shawn Fain said in a webcast on the month-long strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. "We will be calling out plants when we need to, with little notice."

In a social media live appearance, Fain called this a "new phase" in the union's fight against the Big Three as the strike enters its fifth week.

In addition, he said that union members went to Ford's World Headquarters to negotiate, and the automaker tried to present the same deal the union had rejected two weeks ago.

Ford Motor and Stellantis said Friday that they will temporarily lay off 1,250 employees due to the impact of the UAW strike.

Ford has temporarily laid off another 550 employees after the UAW walkouts at its Chicago and Kentucky plants.

At about 6:35 p.m. local time (2235 GMT) on Wednesday, the union announced an expansion midweek for the first time, and without warning, 8,700 UAW workers suddenly went on strike at Ford's largest factory, the Kentucky Truck Plant, in response to Ford's refusal to move further in contract bargaining, according to local media.

"We're not gonna wait around forever," Fain said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

"If Ford can't get that after four weeks on strike, these 8,700 workers shutting down their biggest plant will help them understand it," he added.

The UAW president's remarks come as the union and the Big Three automakers still appear at loggerheads over a new contract.

Ford officials told local reporters Thursday that the company has gone as far as it can on the additional money it can offer members. Executives responded to the Kentucky factory strike by saying the company had reached its financial limit in contract negotiations with the union.

"On the economics, I would say, yes, we're pretty much -- we have reached our limit," said Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford Blue, the automaker's hybrid division.

"You know who's reached their limit? The tens of thousands of Ford workers with no retirement security, the Ford workers who didn't get a single raise for a decade," said Fain in a video announcement, noting that Ford CEO Jim Farley made 21 million U.S. dollars in 2022.

Stellantis said on Friday it had made progress in narrowing differences in talks with the UAW. However, the company added that it furloughed an additional 700 workers at two plants in Kokomo and Indiana because of the strike, bringing the total to 1,340.

The UAW has demanded substantial wage increases and improvements in other areas of its contract, like retirement plans. The union also wants an end to a system that pays new hires a little over half the top union wage of 32 U.S. dollars an hour.

Apart from the car companies, UAW-represented workers went on strike this week at Mack Trucks. Its members voted this week to authorize a strike against General Dynamics, an aerospace and defense contractor. The UAW also represents about 1,000 workers who have been on strike at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for a month.

The UAW continues to negotiate with the Big Three, as the union has yet to reach agreements with any of the automakers.

According to local media, teams from the UAW and Stellantis met Thursday for a negotiating session, but it was unclear if a new counteroffer was made at that time.

On Friday, Fain said negotiations have continued with General Motors and Stellantis, but there is no good news yet from either automaker.

Ford has warned it could be forced to furlough as many as 4,600 workers as early as Friday, a union official said.