There are still ‘significant gaps to close’ in UAW negotiations: Ford

Credit: UAW

Despite making some progress in contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, Ford says there are still some major gaps to address before an agreement is reached. The statement comes after Ford avoided escalated strikes by meeting some UAW demands last week, just as parts workers walked out of 38 Stellantis and General Motors (GM) distribution centers on Friday.

Ford said on Sunday that there were still “significant gaps to close” in contract negotiations with the UAW, according to a report from Reuters. The UAW said it made “some real progress at Ford” over the weekend, although it added that the two parties still had serious issues to work through.

On Sunday evening, Ford said the related “issues are interconnected and must work within an overall agreement that supports our mutual success.”

At the time of writing, the UAW has not yet commented on the statement from Ford. The news also comes ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s plans to visit Michigan in support of the strikes on Tuesday.

Ford also said that it would be pausing construction on a $3.5 billion battery manufacturing plant in Michigan, as detailed in a Monday afternoon report from Reuters.

“We are pausing work and limiting spending on construction on the Marshall project until we’re confident about our ability to competitively operate the plant,” Ford said. “We haven’t made any final decision about the planned investment there.”

The Detroit automakers have offered contracts with 20-percent raises over the next four and a half years, though the UAW is reportedly still asking for 40-percent wage hikes over a four-year period, in addition to 32-hour work weeks. The union is also demanding the restoration of defined pension benefits and an end to a tiered wage system that requires a certain amount of time to reach top wages.

Workers at an additional 20 Stellantis and 18 GM parts distribution centers walked off the job on Friday due to a lack of progress in UAW contract negotiations. The walkouts are straining other Stellantis and GM manufacturing facilities, rendering them unable to receive the necessary parts to continue production. The expanded strikes totaled around 5,600 workers, joining the initial wave of 12,700 workers who walked out a week prior.

The UAW represents roughly 150,000 workers total, and this is the first time in history that the union has lodged strikes against all three of the Michigan automakers simultaneously.

Last week, GM said it was forced to lay off around 2,000 workers at a Fairfax, Kansas plant, citing a lack of available work due to the UAW strikes. The automaker went on to call the UAW demands “untenable,” adding that it wouldn’t be able to offer unemployment for the laid-off employees.

As the Detroit Free Press reports, one auto supplier in Wixom, Michigan also announced plans to lay off 230 workers on Monday. The figure represents 75 percent of employees at Eagle Industries, Inc., which makes a material used in car door components along with other non-automotive products. While the company hasn’t explicitly disclosed its clients, a separate analysis noted that its product had been used in Ford’s vehicles.

“As a result of unforeseen business circumstances, we are providing information in anticipation of a potential layoff at the worksite,” wrote the company in a note to the state of Michigan. “The estimated number of workers is subject to change due to evolving business circumstances.”

Some predict that the ongoing strikes will likely result in higher vehicle prices due to increased costs for parts. Another analysis from the University of Michigan noted that as many as 150,000 workers could be subject to layoffs if the strikes last an entire month, highlighting the situation’s far-reaching effects until the parties can finalize a deal.

“These growing spillover effects across the automotive supply chain produce successively larger spillovers to the broader economy, as well,” states the analysis, “as laid-off workers in the supply chain lose purchasing power and cut back on spending in other parts of the economy.”

Update: Updated to include the Monday afternoon report from Reuters, in which Ford said it was pausing construction on a Michigan battery plant.

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There are still ‘significant gaps to close’ in UAW negotiations: Ford
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