UAW’s King sees arbitration as ‘last option’ in Ford dispute

UAW’s King sees arbitration as ‘last option’ in Ford dispute

Automotive News | August 24, 2011 – 8:32 pm EST

DETROIT (Bloomberg) – UAW President Bob King said he would prefer to avoid arbitration on a union complaint that Ford Motor Co. salaried employees didn’t sacrifice as much as hourly workers to help the company survive.

A hearing before an arbitrator is set for Sept. 15, a day after Ford’s contract covering 41,000 workers expires. More than 35,000 Ford workers, who gave up pay increases and bonuses, signed the grievance last year after the company reinstated raises, tuition aid and 401(k) matches for white-collar employees.

“You always try to work out a settlement if you can without going to arbitration,” King said in an interview today at the union’s headquarters in Detroit. “If we can’t work something out, then arbitration is a last option.”

The union’s contracts covering 113,000 workers at General Motors Co., Ford and Chrysler Group expire Sept. 14. King has said the UAW will not make concessions, while still keeping labor costs competitive.

King has said workers must be rewarded for the $7,000 to $30,000 in givebacks they each accepted since 2005 to help the U.S. automakers survive. Ford union locals will conduct strike-authorization votes for the automaker’s 41,000 hourly workers through Sept. 2, the UAW has said.

Ford is the only automaker the union can strike because GM and Chrysler agreed to a ban on walkouts in the contract negotiations as part of their U.S.-led bailouts and bankruptcies in 2009. Ford didn’t take a bailout or reorganize in Chapter 11.

“We’re not thinking strike at all; it’s not our focus, it’s not our goal,” King said. “Some of the problems are complicated, but we’ll find solutions.”

King: “We’re not thinking strike at all.”

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