YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Ford Strike Deadline Nears; Talks Go On

September 15, 1987|Associated Press

DEARBORN, Mich. — Negotiators for 104,000 workers and Ford Motor Co. bargained Monday against a midnight strike deadline, with the union and company agreeing that the talks had "a long way to go."

In Canada, meanwhile, the president of the Canadian Auto Workers union said Monday that a strike by about 10,000 workers against Chrysler Corp. was inevitable at midnight.

Workers at the United Auto Workers' 53 local Ford unions across the United States are prepared to walk out at midnight if the deadline passes with no word of a settlement. Picket signs have been printed and strike duty rosters have been prepared. A strike would be the company's first in 11 years.

"Everybody's in suspense right now," said Cleveland Ware, financial secretary of Local 551 at Ford's Taurus-Sable assembly plant in Chicago.

The talks have focused on the union's demand for greater job security and the company's demands for more flexible work rules and the right to buy parts from outside companies and produce vehicles in other countries for sale in the United States. The company has said repeatedly that it needs to retain flexibility to compete in the emerging global auto industry.

Real Wage Increase

The union wants its first real wage increase since 1984 and a sweetening of the profit-sharing formula, which paid Ford workers an average three-year total of $5,300. The base wage for a Ford assembly worker is $12.83 an hour.

Most talks on major issues have taken place in the "small committee," consisting of UAW President Owen Bieber, Vice President Stephen Yokich, Ford Vice President Peter Pestillo, company labor relations director Stanley Surma and top assistants to both sides.

"The bigger problem areas are still being discussed and we still have a long way to go before we can reach a settlement," Surma said.

He and Pestillo said talks would continue around the clock if necessary.

A negotiating session that began Sunday was broken off at 5:20 a.m. Monday, and bargainers returned to work after a few hours' break, said UAW spokesman Carl Matyla. He said he did not know exactly when talks were resumed.

Bieber met Sunday evening with the UAW's executive board after telling reporters that Ford had not come across with job protection, as the union has demanded.

'Still Very Serious'

"Job security has indeed been the main area that we've been wrestling with and our differences there are still very serious," Bieber said. "The job guarantees that we're talking about would only be a burden to Ford on the assumption that Ford plans to take a lot of work out of their U.S. plants.

"I can assure you that, if we don't make it, it won't be because of the small differences that could be between us but it will be because Ford failed to meet the fundamental challenge that we're putting before them."

If the two sides do not reach a settlement by the deadline and union leaders call a walkout, it will be the first strike at Ford since 1976, when workers stayed off the job for 28 days over issues that included a demand for more paid time off.

The UAW has a $686-million strike fund, which pays workers $100 a week. This year, it may have to provide for workers at Ford and at General Motors Corp. GM's contract also expires at midnight, but it has been extended until a settlement is reached at Ford.

10-Hour Days

Ware said the 3,000 workers at his plant have been working 10-hour days for three years. But, despite the overtime and Ford's record profit, he said, some workers have been laid off in the last four or five months.

Ford, the world's most profitable auto maker, earned $3.3 billion in 1986 and $2.9 billion in the first half of 1987. The last count put Ford's cash reserves at about $9.1 billion.

In Canada, Bob White, president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, said a strike against Chrysler Corp.'s Canadian subsidiary is inevitable because of a deadlock over key issues.

"The question is not whether or not there will be a strike, but how long it will be," White said Monday.

Los Angeles Times Articles