Salaried auto retirees meet with White House reps

Friday, April 24, 2009

Salaried auto retirees meet with White House reps

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — A senior advisor to the Obama auto task force met with representatives of 200,000 auto industry salaried retirees for an hour this morning, promising to hear their concerns.

Chuck Austin, president of the National Chrysler Retirement Organization, said seven retirees, who are in groups representing salaried retirees at Detroit’s Big Three automakers and Delphi Corp., met at the Treasury Department.

They spoke with Ron Bloom, a senior advisor who worked for the United Steelworkers previously.

Bloom told them that no decisions had been made about a Chrysler bankruptcy and denied reports that a deal had been reached to shield the United Auto Workers pensions and other benefits if the company is forced to seek court protection.

"(Bloom) said they are trying to be fair," Austin said, adding that the task force was trying to protect all workers’ pensions and health care benefits. "But they didn’t make any commitments."

Chrysler is racing to complete a tie-up with Fiat SpA by an April 30 government deadline.

The retirees asked the Task Force to consider a trust-fund concept for health care and life insurance for all retirees of the U.S. auto industry, including suppliers.

Detroit’s Big Three automakers agreed in 2007 to contribute more than $40 billion to a trust fund to take over hourly retiree health care starting in 2010. General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC are in talks to cut by at least half the cash they plan to put into the fund and instead offering the union equity.

Salaried retirees have been much harder hit than hourly retirees, losing health care coverage. On April 1, supplier Delphi terminated life insurance and health care coverage for its 15,000 salaried retirees, saving $70 million annually.

The salaried retirees will meet with Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm next week.

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