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UAW-Chrysler Settlement Closer with Major Hurdle Cleared

May 3, 1988

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (AP) _ The United Auto Workers and Chrysler Corp. have returned to national contract talks after settling nagging issues that included the payment of millions of dollars owed former American Motors Corp. workers.

UAW President Owen Bieber said Monday the union had stalled national contract talks to force the company to settle Wisconsin-worker issues that had been in limbo since Chrysler bought AMC last August.

″We had to get this piece settled before we could settle the rest,″ Bieber said. ″Now we can get down to the bigger things.″

The national contract covers 66,000 hourly and salaried Chrysler workers in 15 states.

The two sides tentatively agreed Monday on a separate master pact covering about 7,000 former AMC workers in Wisconsin. They also reached a four-year local agreement covering 6,500 of the workers, including 5,500 at the Kenosha, Wis., assembly plant slated for closing and 1,000 at a Kenosha engine plant that will remain open.

The master Wisconsin pact will give Kenosha workers 88 percent, or $57 million, of nearly $65 million that AMC owed them when it was purchased by Chrysler.

Workers will receive 100 percent of the money they loaned AMC in concessions in 1982 but will not get interest as AMC had promised, said Chrysler spokesman Lloyd Northard.

About 9,000 workers will be eligible for payments averaging $6,000 to $8,000 apiece, said Ed Steagall, president of UAW Local 72 representing Kenosha workers.

Under the pact, about 200 Milwaukee parts depot workers and 425 laid off from a stamping plant there will receive most of the more than $5 million AMC owed them.

Bieber said the master pact also would guarantee laid-off workers six months of supplemental unemployment benefits, which are paid in addition to regular unemployment compensation to provide 95 percent of regular pay.

Talks on Chrysler’s national contract, which expires Sept. 14, opened April 18. Last week, the Wisconsin talks were moved to Detroit so bargainers could negotiate all contracts simultaneously.

The tentative Kenosha local contract appears similar to a five-year agreement reached in October covering Jeep plant workers in Toledo, Ohio. Both pacts give the company more flexibility in using workers.

Steagall said about 20 percent of the Kenosha workers would be able to retire early and laid-off Kenosha workers will have first crack at any new jobs at the engine plant there.

The UAW and Chrysler agreed to negotiate over a new contract five months early - working under the broad, job-protecting pattern set in contracts in place at General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. - because of growing friction this year in their working relationship.

Chrysler agreed to early talks in March, but negotiations almost died following last month’s announcement of Chairman Lee Iacocca’s $17.9 million 1987 earnings and other executive compensation and confirmation of plans to shift Chrysler K-car production to Mexico in July.

Chrysler backed off of the K-car move last week, announcing that production would stay in Detroit until year’s end.

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