The three-way talks between
General Motors Corp., the United Auto Workers and the bankrupt Delphi Corp.
appear to be stuck in neutral.
will be a pivotal day in the talks, though, as a Feb. 17 deadline thatDelphi nominally set for filing court motions to have its
current labor pact with the UAW set aside passes. The betting is that
Delphi will not file the motion as long as the
tenor of the talks remains hopeful. Otherwise, Delphi runs the risk of provoking a crisis that could lead
to a showdown, union officials have warned.
Claudia Piccinin, Delphi spokeswoman, said that the Feb. 17 date was not a
hard-and-fast deadline and the company’s preference was to let the negotiations
Delphi said in December it was
withdrawing its previous contract proposals and planned to give negotiations
time to work. The earliest the company would consider asking the bankruptcy
judge to set aside Delphi’s contracts with the
UAW and other unions was Feb. 17.
Robert “Steve” Miller, Delphi’s tough-talking chief executive officer, said last
month that the bankrupt supplier was prepared to give the three-way negotiations
with GM and the UAW time to work.
Meanwhile, Richard Shoemaker, the
UAW’s top negotiator in the discussions with GM and Delphi , said the differences were substantial and
difficult to overcome. “The differences between the parties are huge. They’re
not minor differences. They’re not small differences. They’re huge
differences,” he said during the UAW’s political conference in Washington D.C.
He also reiterated the union
position that if the bankruptcy judge throws out the current agreement,
Delphi’s unions will strike. “If the court
rejects our agreement and Delphi imposes its
last proposal, it will probably be impossible to avoid a long strike,” Shoemaker
Making a complex
The negotiations are
complicated. Currently the UAW estimates there are more than 18,000 Delphi workers who are eligible to claim a job or
"flow-back" into GM's manufacturing operations under the union's existing
contract with both companies.
The flowback basically means that
as part of the settlement, GM will have to agree to add workers to its payroll
at a time when it has committed to cutting the size of its workforce. One
possible solution is offer buyouts directly to GM workers who are near or past
their nominal retirement dates. More than 40 percent of GM’s current workforce
is close to retirement, according to estimates by the Center For Automotive
Research in Ann
The UAW estimates that 7520
Delphi workers have now applied to go back to
GM. In 2005, GM took back only 700 Delphi workers — leading to a huge pile-up of
underemployed workers in the job bank, which Delphi estimates has already cost
more than $400 million.
Most of the commentary around the
negotiations has focused on the need to come up with a formula that will
encourage thousands of employees to retire early. But it also appears with the
economy changing rapidly and the promises involving retirement benefits being
shredded daily, many GM employees are more reluctant to leave.
Bob King, the UAW vice president
in charge of the parts department, said last week that while the union is
willing to help companies in distress, it also wants to see companies make major
investments that will keep jobs in the United