For decades GM (GM), Ford (F), and Chrysler have essentially negotiated as a block.
Not so this year, according to Bloomberg. Chrysler, now privately held and without a rich parent, is trying to get immediate relief from costs that might drain its cash. GM and F are much more interested in getting pension and health liabilities off their balance sheet. There has been talk of the car companies funding a pension pool that would be managed by the UAW.
Bloomberg writes: "Retiree health-care liabilities totaled $64 billion at GM at the end of last year and $31 billion at Ford, according to company filings."
The UAW says that it wants the same deal with all three companies, but, for now, that may simply be posturing.
The UAW is in as much or more trouble than the car companies are. It realizes that home values and gas prices are taking a huge toll on the ability of Detroit to engineer a turnaround for operations in North America. The first choice of the union is to get cookie cutter deals.
But, their only choice may be to be flexible enough to keep the three firms on their feet.
Douglas A. McIntyre