Washington: Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) on Friday began a simultanous strike action at all the ‘Big Three’ US motor industry giants — General Motors (GM), Ford and Stellantis, effectively halting work at the plants after the companies failed to reach tentative labour deals with the workers.
“Tonight for the first time in our history we will strike all three of the big three at once,” the BBC quoted the labour union’s president Shawn Fain as saying in a Facebook live transmission late Thursday night.
The strike started at Friday midnightat GM’s Wentzville mid-size truck plant, Ford’s Bronco plant in Michigan, the Toledo Jeep plant owned by Stellantis.
The plants are critical to the production of some of the “Detroit Three’s” most profitable vehicles.
Other facilities will continue to operate, the UAW said but it did not rule out broadening the strikes beyond the initial three targets.
“If we need to go all out, we will… Everything is on the table,” Fain added.
The strike comes after labour contracts expired on Thursday night, with the UAW saying that the automobile giants had not put forward acceptable offers.
The UAW had demanded a 40 per cent pay increase for its roughly 140,000 members over four years; a four-day working week; the return of automatic pay increases tied to inflation; and stricter limits on how long workers can be considered “temporary” staff who do not receive union benefits
On Thursday afternoon, GM had made a new offer, including a 20 per cent raise, matching Ford’s proposal, CNN reported.
Meanwhile, Stellantis, the owner of Jeep and Chrysler, had offered 17.5 per cent.
According to the Union, their targeted strike plan — a “Stand Up strike,” as Fain described it — will give them more power in negotiations.
But on Thursday night, Ford blamed the UAW for the impasse at the bargaining table.
“Unfortunately, the UAW’s counterproposal tonight showed little movement from the union’s initial demands submitted August 3. If implemented, the proposal would more than double Ford’s current UAW-related labour costs, which are already significantly higher than the labour costs of Tesla, Toyota and other foreign-owned automakers in the US that utilise non-union-represented labour,” the auto giant said in a statement.
With the deadline looming on Thursday evening, the White House said that President Joe Biden had spoken on the phone with Fain about the negotiations but provided no further details.
The tense negotiations between the two sides began in July, the BBC reported.
Last month, 97 per cent of UAW members voted to authorise a strike.
Ford, GM and Stellantis together account for about 40 per cent of US car sales.
The last time the car industry faced a strike was in 2019, when workers at General Motors walked off the job for six weeks.