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UNITED Auto Workers president Shawn Fain has warned that the contract dispute with the “Big Three” US car-makers will be escalated unless progress is made by noon tomorrow.
Members of the union have been on strike since last Friday at three plants, one each for Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, as part of a push for a 40 per cent pay increase and improvements to key terms and conditions such as their pension scheme.
Mr Fain said on Tuesday that unless the companies allowed substantial progress towards a fair agreement, the union would call on more members to join its “stand-up strike,” in which specific plants are targeted for action.
He said: “We’ve been available 24/7 to bargain a deal that recognises our members’ sacrifices and contributions to these record profits. Still the Big Three failed to get down to business.
“I have been clear with the Big Three every step of the way. And I’m going to be crystal clear again right now. If we don’t make serious progress by noon on Friday September 22, more locals [union branches] will be called on to stand up and join the strike.”
He added: “Autoworkers have waited long enough to make things right at the Big Three.
“We’re not waiting around and we’re not messing around. So, noon on Friday September 22 is a new deadline.”
The employers said that they were hopeful that a deal could be reached by tomorrow.
A General Motors statement said: “We’re continuing to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible for the benefit of our team members, customers, suppliers and communities across the US.”
A Ford spokeswoman said negotiations were continuing, but it provided no additional details.
Mr Fain also rebutted suggestions that US President Joe Biden was planning to send top aides to Detroit to help settle the dispute.
He also condemned former president Donald Trump’s comments on the dispute, in which he criticised the car makers for moving towards the introduction of electric vehicles, claiming that this would cost jobs.
Mr Fain said: “This battle is not about the president; it’s not about the former president. Their involvement is a mischaracterisation. They’re not involved in negotiations.”
On Tuesday night, Canadian union Unifor said it had reached a tentative agreement with Ford to avert a strike by 5,600 workers at several plants.
Unifor did not immediately disclose the terms of the deal, which it said had been endorsed unanimously by its bargaining committee.
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