Deal ends strike at US car giant

Chrysler and union reach agreement over wages and retirement benefits.

    The strike at Chrysler was only the
    second since 1997 [AFP]
    Chrysler executives said in a statement that the company expected the deal to improve its manufacturing competitiveness.
     
    Needs 'balanced'
     
    They also said the deal was subject to review by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
     

    Tom LaSorda, the vice-chairman and chief negotiator at Chrysler LLC, said: "The national agreement is consistent with the economic pattern,  and balances the needs of our employees and company by providing a  framework to improve our long-term manufacturing competitiveness."

     

    The agreement is similar to a deal between the union and General Motors reached last month after a two-day national strike.

    The Ford Motor Company is the last of the 'Detroit Big Three' automakers yet to negotiate a deal with UAW.

    Details awaited

    Details of the deal, which now faces ratification by Chrysler's 49,000 UAW-represented workers, were not immediately available.

    Employees on strike outside Chrysler factories began to disband as word went out from local union branches about the settlement.

    "Everyone is just relieved. No one wanted this to go on too long," said Michael Yanoulakis, a Chrysler electrician leaving a picket line in Sterling Heights, Michigan. "Now the membership will speak at ratification."

    The UAW and Chrysler conducted their negotiations in secret and many workers said they were concerned about what concessions the union had offered.

    James Mosley, 55, a Chrysler veteran of 35 years in Kenosha, Wisconsin, said: "It's good that the strike is over, but now I'm apprehensive ... What I want to know is what we got and what we had to give up."

    Surprise settlement


    In 2006, Chrysler's total average labour cost was the highest among the US-based car manufacturers at nearly $76 per hour, while Toyota Motor Corp's was less than $48.

    The surprise settlement capped a dramatic showdown between the union and newly private Chrysler under the ownership of Cerberus Capital Management.

    The UAW called a strike at 11am (1500GMT) when a marathon bargaining session failed to produce an agreement by a deadline the union had set earlier.

    Ron Gettelfinger, UAW's president, said: "This agreement was made possible because UAW workers made it clear to Chrysler that we needed an agreement that rewards the contributions they have made to the success of this company."

    Quick settlement

    David Cole, chairman of the Centre for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said the short strike may have helped spark the quick settlement.

    "Sometimes it is necessary to raise the focus a little bit, as getting this kind of contract ratified is very difficult," he said.

    Chrysler was made private by Cerberus Capital Management in August in a $7.4 billion deal. Former parent, Daimler AG, retains a stake of about 20 per cent.

    Chrysler's US sales slipped by three per cent in September, in line with a slump in the broad market. The company ranks behind GM, Toyota and Ford in US sales.

    The last UAW strike against Chrysler was in 1997.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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