DETROIT, Oct 20 (Reuters) – United Auto Workers President Shawn Fine warned of more walkouts at U.S. truck and SUV factories on Friday, insisting the companies could buy more than the record packages on the table if the Detroit Three automakers do not improve wages and benefits.
“We’re hitting the big three like we’ve never hit before,” Fine said. “These highly profitable companies still have to give.”
After five weeks of strikes, Fine said the UAW received new contract offers from General Motors ( GM.N ) and Chrysler-parent Stellantis ( STLAM.MI ) in the past 24 hours. Ford ( FN ) made its new offering two weeks ago.
Fine confirmed that the Detroit Three accepted a 23% pay raise offer and made progress on other issues. But he told UAW members that “there is more to win.” GM and Ford have added that cost-of-living increases already take more than 30% of their total compensation benefits.
Fine acknowledged that some UAW members wanted to vote for the concessions at hand, but urged them not to succumb to “fear, uncertainty, doubt and division” that he said had been sown by the companies.
While warning of possible extended strikes, Fine told UAW members that negotiations were ending. “This is the hardest part of the strike,” he said. “Before a deal, when there’s a very aggressive push for that last mile.”
Before Fein spoke, shares of both GM and Ford closed up about 1% on Friday.
The union began bargaining with a demand for a 40% wage increase. Walkouts from three automakers began on September 15. Now more than 34,000 union members are conducting the UAW’s first simultaneous strikes against the Detroit Three.
Hard at Ford
Friday’s progress in negotiations followed last week’s surprise UAW strike at Ford’s large Kentucky truck plant, which generates $25 billion in annual sales.
Fein described the Kentucky walkout as a warning to GM and Stellantis.
Ford, the highest bidder of the three, said it was within its affordability range and competitive.
Some of Fan’s tougher rhetoric was directed at Ford and Bill Ford, the company’s chairman and great-grandson of founder Henry Ford, on Friday. For decades, Ford has cultivated a collaborative relationship with the UAW against GM and the former Chrysler, now Stellandis.
“Gone are the days when UAW and Ford were a team fighting against other companies,” Fine declared.
He also called out Ford’s $600 million fourth-quarter dividend, which he said would be a dollar-an-hour raise for all Ford hourly workers for the life of a new contract.
“What Ford is showing us is that the money is there. They don’t want us to have it,” Fine said.
Automakers have said the union demands will significantly raise costs and dampen their electric vehicle ambitions. Foreign brands such as EV leaders Tesla and Toyota are unconsolidated.
Ford said in a statement after Fein spoke that it was “anxious to conclude these negotiations,” citing lost wages and worker profit sharing.
Stellantis had no immediate comment.
Bill Ford warned that the strike would hurt the automaker and the US economy. The Andersen Economic Group, an economic consulting firm, estimated that the strike’s total economic losses reached $7.7 billion, with the Detroit Three suffering losses of $3.45 billion.
Ford Motor has yet to say how the EV battery plants it plans to build in joint ventures with Asian battery makers will fit under the UAW master agreement.
On Friday, Fine did not mention the battery plants. The UAW wants auto manufacturers to allow the union to organize their workers and raise their wages significantly from current levels, which are below assembly plant wage rates.
Reporting by Joseph White in Detroit and Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bangalore; Additional reporting by Ben Clayman in Detroit and Pratyush Thakur in Bangalore; Written by Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Peter Henderson and David Gregorio
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