‘Tentative agreement with ford will require sacrifices’ – UAW

Terminal 5 building workers on the picket line early yesterday morning outside Hatton Cross tube
Terminal 5 building workers on the picket line early yesterday morning outside Hatton Cross tube

THE UAW National Ford Council yesterday endorsed the union’s tentative agreement with Ford Motor Company on health care. The tentative agreement is subject to ratification by active UAW-Ford members and approval by a federal district court.

‘As we said Saturday, our goal in these discussions with Ford was to provide the best possible health care coverage and the strongest possible long-term protections for UAW-Ford active workers, retirees and surviving spouses.

‘We believe the tentative agreement meets that goal, and we are gratified by the UAW National Ford Council’s strong endorsement,’ said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Vice President Gerald Bantom, who directs the UAW National Ford Department.

‘The tentative agreement will require sacrifices from active workers, retirees and surviving spouses to help ensure that all UAW-Ford families will continue to have excellent health care coverage now and in the future,’ Gettelfinger and Bantom said.

‘These sacrifices are shared equitably and, as at General Motors, we succeeded in protecting the people who need it most – our low-income retirees and surviving spouses.’

Gettelfinger and Bantom said the tentative agreement will play an important role in improving Ford’s competitiveness by: reducing Ford’s OPEB liabilities; reducing Ford’s yearly health care spending, and committing Ford to invest $900 million in product innovation and new technology.

‘We discussed the investment issue extensively, and all parties agree that enhancing Ford’s core domestic vehicle business is vital to a secure future for UAW-Ford workers, retirees and surviving spouses, as well as the communities where Ford does business,’ Gettelfinger and Bantom said.

The focus of the new investment will be projects and initiatives, such as building fuel cell, hybrid, and other advanced technology vehicles and drive trains that would not have been possible without the commitments contained in the tentative agreement.

If the tentative agreement is ratified by active UAW-Ford members and approved by the court, active workers will forego future pay increases through the deferral of 17 cents of future quarterly cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) and the three per cent wage increase scheduled for September 2006.

In addition, after the 17-cent COLA deferral has been reached, an additional two cents of each subsequent quarterly COLA adjustment will be deferred.

Health care coverage for UAW-Ford active workers will continue with no changes, other than several administrative changes and increases in prescription drug co-payments.

Retirees with Ford pension incomes of $8,000 or less and whose Ford pension benefit rate is $33.33 or less per month per year of service will not be affected by the proposed changes. Their health care coverage will continue as is, except for administrative changes.

All other UAW-Ford retirees and surviving spouses will be required to pay monthly premiums of $10 for individual coverage and $21 for family coverage. Deductibles and co-payments will be implemented.

‘The UAW will continue to work with employers to address critical health care issues, but the hard reality is that America’s health care crisis cannot be solved by one union, one company or one industry,’ the UAW leaders said.

‘The time is long overdue for the United States to join the rest of the world’s advanced industrialised nations and establish a national health insurance program. Meaningful health care reform is at the top of the UAW’s agenda because quality, affordable health care is a top priority for every American working family.’

The UAW leaders programme of worker and retiree sacrifices to assist Ford’s survival will not resolve the crisis, and will only lead to Ford making greater and greater demands for bigger and bigger sacrifices to wipe out all the gains that workers have made.

The UAW’s job is to defend every gain that the auto workers have made on wages, pensions and job security.

The Ford membership of the UAW must reject this offer that they make sacrifices, made by their leaders and that they forego wage rises and pay higher health levies to the company.

They must demand a programme of both industrial and political action to defend jobs and healthcare, including breaking with the Republicans and Democrats and launching a workers party to fight for socialist policies to secure job security and a national health service.

Meanwhile, On Saturday, December 10, 2005, UAW members across the country marked International Human Rights Week with marches, rallies, candlelight vigils and town hall meetings.

In Flint, Michigan, UAW members from area locals held a rally and candlelight vigil at the Sitdowners memorial. UAW Local 651 President Russ Reynolds said it’s time for all workers – union and non-union alike – to come together and fight back.

‘We need to educate all of America, we need to educate every non-union shop, everybody who works in a food market, a restaurant, any place,’ said Reynolds.

‘If they can do this to us – organised labour – there’s nothing to prevent anybody from saying, “We’re paying you $12 an hour . . . Starting Monday, we’re paying you $7 bucks. Take it or leave it.” ’

Members of UAW Local 696 and other unions rally in Dayton, Ohio.

Elsewhere around the nation, UAW members marched and met with their congressional representatives to rally support for good paying jobs.

UAW Region 1D members held town hall meetings in Saginaw, Coopersville and Grand Rapids to present their views on the Delphi bankruptcy, and more than 3,000 rallied in support of Delphi workers in Dayton, Ohio. At the Johanning Civic Centre in Kokomo, Ind., thousands of supporters from as far away as Kentucky gathered with UAW members from Delphi’s Kokomo facility for a demonstration against the company’s proposed pay and benefit cuts.

UAW Local 292 members in Kokomo, Ind., know what’s at stake for workers if corporations are allowed to use bankruptcy to undermine union contracts.

The AFL-CIO called the December 10 day of action ‘the largest union movement mobilisation in 15 years’ and estimated more than 60,000 participants nationwide. Workers marched in Boston and Chicago, in Seattle and Washington to spotlight corporate lawlessness and the assault on workers’ wages, benefits and ability to form unions.

‘This is where we’ve got to stop it now,’ said Reynolds. ‘We’ve got to get 215 million middle-class Americans together and stop this before it explodes.’