Ford to face hearing on UAW’s equal-sacrifice complaint

Ford to face hearing on UAW’s equal-sacrifice complaint
Keith Naughton
Automotive News | August 23, 2011 – 9:36 pm EST

DETROIT (Bloomberg) — Ford Motor Co. is facing a Sept. 15 hearing on a complaint by the UAW that salaried employees didn’t sacrifice as much as hourly workers, said two people familiar with the matter.

The hearing before an independent arbitrator is scheduled for the day after Ford’s contract expires with its 41,000 U.S. hourly workers, said the people, who asked not to be identified revealing details of the grievance process.

More than 35,000 Ford workers, who gave up pay increases and bonuses, signed the grievance last year after the company reinstated raises, tuition assistance and 401(k) matches to white-collar employees.

The union’s “equality of sacrifice” grievance has become a topic at the bargaining table with Ford, said one of the people. Ford is seeking to reduce labor costs while the UAW tries to recover what workers gave up to help U.S. automakers survive. UAW President Bob King has said members must be rewarded for concessions of $7,000 to $30,000 each since 2005.

“It’s going to be difficult to get anything else done with this hanging over the Ford talks,” said Kristin Dziczek, labor analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. “It will be tough to get a contract ratified if this is not resolved first.”

John Stoll, a spokesman for Ford, declined to comment on the matter. Michele Martin, a spokeswoman for the UAW, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lawyers for both sides are trying to settle the grievance before it goes to an independent arbitrator, said one of the people. Workers are hoping to receive a payment from the company to settle the dispute, the person said.

“This is part and parcel of what the Ford workers are looking for in these negotiations,” Dziczek said. “On the back of this grievance, there’s a whole lot of discontent with executive pay.”

Ford, the only major U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy, rewarded CEO Alan Mulally in March with $56.6 million in stock for leading the automaker’s turnaround. In addition, his 2010 compensation rose 48 percent to $26.5 million. King has called Mulally’s stock award “morally wrong” and “outrageous.”

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