GM executive slams UAW over 'flow of misinformation,' rhetoric during strike

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The United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain will break with tradition and not do the traditional “handshake” ceremony with auto executives from the Big Three Auto Makers to begin contract negotiations. Instead, he will speak with Stellantis employees at the Stellantis Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan on July 12, 2023. Getty Images News (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images News | Getty Images

DETROIT – As the United Auto Workers union enters day six of targeted strikes against the Detroit automakers,

General Motors President Mark Reuss is criticizing union leadership for its rhetoric and “flow of misinformation” during the ongoing contract negotiations.Reuss, in an editorial, focused on the union’s public bashing of the company and elements of GM’s “record” contract proposal last week that included 20% pay raises and improved time off, bonuses and other benefits over the four-year term of the deal.

“As the past has clearly shown, nobody wins in a strike,” Reuss said in a Wednesday column in the Detroit Free Press. “We’ve delivered a record-breaking offer.” This is a proven fact. This is a great way to reward our team, and position the company for future success. In these situations, rhetoric can often obscure the reality. UAW President Shawn Fain said Monday that the strikes will expand at noon Friday unless “serious progress” is made in negotiations. UAW President Shawn Fain said Monday the strikes will expand at noon Friday unless “serious progress” is made in negotiations.

Currently on strike are roughly 12,700 UAW workers from GM’s midsize truck and full-size van plant in Wentzville, Missouri; Ford’s Ranger midsize pickup and Bronco SUV plant in Wayne, Michigan; and Stellantis’ Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator plant in Toledo, Ohio.

What did GM offer?

Reuss said GM’s offer, which the union countered, recognizes “the many contributions our represented team members make to our company — past, present and future. Reuss stated that under the agreement, about 85% current represented employees will earn an annual base wage of $82,000. Colin Langan, a Wells Fargo investor note from September 15, said that GM’s proposal would cost between $700m and $1.2b over the course of the agreement. Langan, a CNBC “Squawk Box” analyst, said that if GM agreed to the union’s demands it would cost between $6 billion and 8 billion dollars. There’s still a long road ahead. Langan said that this is the real pain point for automakers, calling them “material numbers” for the companies. That’s the real pain point for the automakers,” Langan said, calling them “material numbers” for the companies.

Key demands from the union have included 40% hourly pay increases; a reduced, 32-hour workweek; a shift back to traditional pensions; the elimination of compensation tiers; and a restoration of cost-of-living adjustments. Other items on the table include enhanced retiree benefits and better vacation and family leave benefits.

‘Untenable’

Reuss said Wednesday that the union’s full demands would be “untenable,” or unsustainable, for the company.

“If we don’t continue to invest, we will lose ground — quickly. Our competitors across the country and around the world, most of whom are non-union, will waste no time seizing the opportunity we would be handing them,” he said.

The next wave of UAW strike will hit the most profitable vehicles, says Wells Fargo's Colin Langan

Mark Reuss, executive vice president of global product development at General Motors Co. (GM), speaks next to a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck during the 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Reuss’ comments are the latest by automotive executives as the UAW takes a strategically aggressive approach during the talks, showing little leeway in its demands.

Late Monday, Ford released a lengthy statement fact-checking comments made by Fain, including auto worker wages, company profits and stock buybacks.

It followed Ford CEO Jim Farley last week saying the company would have “gone bankrupt by now” under the union’s current proposals. He’s also criticized Fain for his approach to bargaining.

“We’ve never seen anything like this; it’s frustrating,” Farley told CNBC’s Phil LeBeau last week ahead of the strikes. I don’t understand what Shawn Fain’s doing but he is not negotiating with us as the contract expires. “