Time is running out for UAW and Fiat-Chrysler to work out a deal

Midnight deadline looms for UAW and Fiat Chrysler. If they don't reach a deal, talks could continue or workers could go on strike.

- Two things can happen once the midnight deadline is reached. Negotiations can continue and auto workers essentially keep the same contract they have now, or they go on strike.  According to a letter sent to Fox 2 by a trusted source, workers at one Chrysler plant are prepared for a worst case scenario.

A union memo provided to Fox 2 from a Jeep plant in Toledo, provides instructions for UAW workers. "As of today we do not have a tentative agreement," it goes on to read, "There is no deal in place. We must prepare for the possibility of a strike at 12 a.m."

A little closer to home, one auto expert tells us, that is not necessarily going to be the case.

"I'm very optimistic that negotiations will continue," said Bruce Belzowski, University of Michigan Managing Director of Automotive Futures Group.

This a scenario that has played out many times over the course of history between automakers and the United Auto Workers Union, but recent history shows final hour negotiations aren't that common.

"We've had what we would call labor peace since probably the 90's, "said Belzowski. "There have been very few really hard core strikes. There was a strike that took place in the 90’s but it was not over labor negotiations. It was something else."

According to Belzowski, this particular contract negotiation has some unique bargaining chips likely being laid on the table.

"Never before was there a two tier wage system. Now it’s been going on since 2007 or 2008. Now the labor manufacturers want to say, ‘Maybe we should do away with these since the manufacturers are doing so much better now.’"

He points to health care costs and future job security as a couple of other sticking points.
"We hear a lot about what could be on the table, but we probably won't find out about it until the decisions are made," said Belzowski.

The negotiators are also an interesting element. On behalf of the Big Three is Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who we’re told has a good rapport with the head of the UAW, Dennis Williams.

"I think it's unusual to see CEO of the company as the lead negotiator,” said Belzowski. “I haven’t seen it. So it will be interesting to see how this plays out."

Negotiations have been ongoing all summer.  If no deal is reached, it's possible the workers can walk off the job. According to Belzowski, that scenario seems unlikely.

"It’s been a pretty good relationship between UAW and the manufacturers overall. I'm assuming it will continue but we’ll see what happens."
Both Ford and GM have agreed to extend contract negotiations, but because the CEO of Fiat-Chrysler has been named target negotiator, he still holds all the cards when it comes to reaching a new contract negotiation.

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