Chrysler offers UAW a contract that cuts benefits Union refuses to pay health costs

August 28, 1993|By New York Times News Service

DETROIT -- Following the lead of Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Corp. proposed a contract to the United Automobile Workers yesterday that would reduce pay and benefits for newly hired workers and require current workers to pay part of their health care costs.

In making their proposals, the Big Three automakers traditionally ask for more concessions than they hope to gain. On receiving the proposals, the union traditionally grumbles.

"They said it was kind of a ground-floor approach, and I said it was more like a sub-basement approach," said Stan Marshall, the UAW vice president leading negotiations at Chrysler. "It's really nothing as far as anything substantial for our members."

The current three-year contract, which covers 440,000 workers at Chrysler, Ford and General Motors Corp., is scheduled to expire at midnight Sept. 14. The companies have been negotiating separately with the union since June 24.

The negotiations will enter a new phase Monday, when the union plans to announce which of the companies it has made its target, or the lead company in negotiating a contract that the union will then use as the pattern in bargaining with the two others. To shape the contract to its own priorities, each company traditionally likes to be the target.

The companies' contract proposals are usually their final bids. Ford made its proposal Wednesday.

But for the first time in decades of negotiations, General Motors is making no contract proposal this year.

"We are encouraged by the progress that we have been making through the subcommittee level, and, in our view, both parties already have a good understanding of each other's priorities on the major issues," said Thomas J. Pyden, a GM spokesman. He said that the company still hoped to be the target.

Analysts were divided on whether making a proposal helped or hurt GM's chances.

By not putting a proposal on the table, GM avoided locking itself into bargaining positions, said Harley Shaiken, a visiting professor specializing in labor relations at the University of California at Berkeley. "It may actually facilitate the negotiations, should GM be the target."

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