UAW plans to meet with Fiat’s Italian unions to build ties

UAW plans to meet with Fiat’s Italian unions to build ties

Automotive News | March 24, 2011 – 12:01 am EST

DETROIT (Reuters) — The UAW plans to meet in June with the Italian unions that represent workers of Fiat S.p.A., which runs Chrysler Group, as part of an effort to strengthen their ties.
“They’re eager to sit down and talk with us,” UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who heads the union’s Chrysler department, said in an interview.
Fiat plans to invest 20 billion euros ($28.3 billion) revamping its domestic plants in return for having union workers put in more hours, take shorter breaks and risk having pay withheld for persistent absenteeism.
UAW President Bob King is seeking to forge stronger relationships with unions representing workers at the overseas operations of Chrysler, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. and organize foreign automakers’ factories in the U.S.
“We’re building a broad international coalition,” King said on Wednesday during the UAW’s bargaining convention in Detroit. The UAW met with trade union leaders from Ford’s global operations six months ago and is seeking a framework for an agreement to protect workers’ rights around the world, King said. The UAW’s GM department is working on a similar effort and had its first meeting a month ago, he said.
‘Unified’ movement
It’s “about having a unified labor movement globally so they don’t pit workers in Germany against workers in England against workers in Brazil against workers in the United States,” King said.
The UAW in August created a Global Organizing Institute to recruit and train activists in countries including Brazil, China and India, Richard Bensinger, who directs the UAW’s organizing efforts, told workers at the convention.
Eight students that are some of the first members of the institute’s eight-week international internship program spoke to UAW members and the media on Wednesday about their plans to return to their home countries and coordinate organizing efforts there. Holiefield, who said he’s met with Italian labor officials in the past, declined to say which of Fiat’s unions the UAW plans to speak with in June.
Stronger relationships
“Labor’s pain is always felt amongst the laborer,” Holiefield said. “If there’s anything we can do to sit down and get that message across to whomever it is, we thoroughly believe that we can work our way through anything.”
The UAW hopes to build stronger relationships with Fiat’s unions so they can work together and help “the companies that we all represent be that much more prosperous,” he said.
The efforts could help Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both Fiat and Chrysler, Holiefield said. “We’re not there to beat him up or anything but to provide a forum so he can hear labor and that we can find common ground,” he said.
Jodi Tinson, a Chrysler spokeswoman, declined to comment.

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