Chrysler voting portends tougher time at Ford

Chrysler’s rank-and-file are voting against the new contract just as often as they’re voting in favor of it through the weekend polling and the new deal may not get approval. This could make things more complicated with Ford negotiations.

If Chrysler employees vote the deal down, it will represent UAW President Ron Gettelfinger’s first significant setback during his tenure atop the UAW. The senior leadership is will lobby employees this week at the Sterling Heights, Mich. and Belvidere, Ill. plants to vote in favor of the deal and secure its overall approval.

Chrysler voting got off to a tough start last week when 80% of hourly employees at the St. Louis North truck plant voted against the contract. The result was a surprise because the plant had received one of the stronger future product guarantees in the new pact. Other plants that have voted against the contract, include: Detroit Axle in Warren, Mich.; St. Louis South in St. Louis and Newark, Del. The Newark plant is scheduled to close.

“I don’t like their odds here. It will be really, really close,” an employee at the Sterling Heights plant told The Garage, who added he would probably vote in favor of the deal because he didn’t believe Cerberus, the private equity firm that bought Chrysler earlier this year, was going to give any more concessions.

If the deal is approved, it will be by the thinnest of margins: just over 50%. The fallout from such a narrow approval margin is that those percentages typically drop at each automaker, and if the percentage falls any further, there won’t bet an approval. This is all before the UAW and Ford hammer out their agreement. Some have speculated that Ford was chosen to go last because the UAW was going to craft a deal that would provide Ford with more concessions that those required by GM and Chrysler. If the UAW cannot gain approval on the pattern agreement, a deal with Ford looks even more difficult.

An employee at Ford’s Sterling Axle plant in Sterling Heights, Mich. told The Garage that he viewed the events as a “perfect storm” for a strike at Ford. “They’re going to want a lot (of concessions), but I’m hearing a lot of unhappiness with that. We’re going to need some product guarantees to give up a lot. I don’t know if they can do that.”

Ford’s product lineup is generally considered the weakest of the Big Three, thus they can least afford to give product guarantees. Beyond the Ford Fusion, Ford Edge and F-Series truck, the lineup is considered staid and unimpressive, according to analysts. An infusion of new designs and products means guarantees could be tough to come by…and further complicate a negotiation that’s looking tougher by the minute.

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