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UAW Nixes Early Talks With Chrysler in Absence of Strike Deadline

January 4, 1985

DETROIT (AP) _ The United Auto Workers union said Friday it would not enter contract negotiations with Chrysler Corp. in the absence of a strike deadline and will begin talks with the nation’s No. 3 automaker near the pact’s Oct. 15 expiration date.

Negotiations were likely to begin in July or August, the UAW and Chrysler said.

″The position of the (Chrysler) Council is that they do not want to enter negotiations at this time without a strike deadline,″ UAW President Owen Bieber said after the UAW’s Chrysler Council meeting.

The union did not say if a vote had been taken on a strike deadline, but the action is normally taken after negotiations begin.

The contract covers some 62,500 hourly employees at 51 assembly plants, parts depots and other Chrysler worksites in the United States, said Robert Heath, Chrysler spokesman.

The UAW began urging the No. 3 automaker to reopen contract negotiations early after the union concluded contracts with General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. last fall.

The union was seeking to win for its Chrysler members the higher wages, improved benefits and worker protection provision included in the GM and Ford contracts, which reflected record profits by the automakers.

From 1978 through 1981, Chrysler lost a total of more than $3.4 billion. In 1983, the company earned $701 million, and 1984 profits, scheduled for release in February, were estimated by analysts to reach $2.3 billion.

Chrysler workers are on the average paid $1.19 per hour less than their counterparts at GM and Ford.

The company steadfastly refused to terminate the contract early, saying it would have been a unilateral concession to labor. Chairman Lee Iacocca said last fall that talks would be more fruitful if conducted with the contract in place.

Bieber said the absence of a strike deadline would hamper the effectiveness of negotiations.

″The decision revolved around whether or not people felt you could go to the bargaining table without a hard strike deadline and be able to negotiate to the maximum,″ he said.

Thomas W. Miner, Chrysler vice president for industrial relations, said: ″This was the union’s decision and we respect it. We look forward to continued good relations with the union, and to sitting down with them later this year when the Chrysler-UAW contract comes up for renewal.″

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