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Ratification of UAW, FCA deal appears mathematically impossible

DETROIT– Ratification of a deal between the UAW union and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles appears to be impossible after workers at assembly plants in Toledo, Ohio, and the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights on Tuesday overwhelming voted against a proposed four-year contract, the latest in a string of decisive defeats that now makes ratification of the deal a long shot.

In Toledo, 87 percent of production workers and 80 percent of skilled trades workers who work at the plant where the Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Cherokee are built voted against the contract, according to a person briefed on the results who is not authorized to release them publicly.

The margin of defeat by workers represented by UAW Local 12 in Toledo appears to be the largest yet among UAW locals that have voted.

At UAW Local 1700 in Sterling Heights, 72 percent of production workers and 65 percent of skilled trades workers who cast ballots voted against the contract, according to a person briefed on those results.

A Detroit Free Press analysis of voting already indicated that ratification by a majority of the 40,000 union-represented workers at Fiat Chrysler was unlikely before the Jeep results were announced. Mathematically, the deal cannot pass.

The rejection of the agreement by members of UAW Local 12 in Toledo isn’t surprising, but the overwhelming margin of defeat is the highest of any large UAW unit that has voted so far.

Many of the more than 5,000 workers there are angry at Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne because there have been media reports that the automaker plans to move the Jeep Cherokee _ the best-selling Jeep model _ to the automaker’s plant in Belvidere, Ill.

News of the company’s plans to move the Cherokee came after officials from Toledo and the state of Ohio spent more than a year putting together a land and incentive package to convince the automaker to keep the Wrangler in Toledo. But workers, as well as politicians, felt double-crossed when news emerged that the company would move the Cherokee instead.

In related news, Local jobless rate holds steady in August.

Workers are worried about the relocation of the Cherokee because they are concerned that the Wrangler and a potential Wrangler pickup truck won’t support as many jobs even after production capacity is expanded for the iconic SUV.

Workers in Toledo and Sterling Heights who voted were among the last to vote in a nationwide ratification process that began last week. Workers at an assembly plant in Belvidere were to be the last to vote on Wednesday.

Issues about the automaker’s product plans are also a factor at Sterling Heights Assembly, where Fiat Chrysler recently spent more than $1 billion to retool the plant to make the Chrysler 200. Now, there are media reports that car will be moved to Mexico and the automaker will make move the Ram 1500 from the Detroit suburb of Warren to Sterling Heights.

Both the company and the UAW have refused to disclose the product plan and put it into writing.

“All the UAW workers in Metro Detroit are bombarded with rumors or work going to Mexico,” said Simon Vuli, who has worked at Sterling Heights Assembly for three years.

If ratified, the proposed contract would give all workers a $3,000 signing bonus, entry-level workers in assembly plants would see wages increase to a range of $17 to $25.35 per hour, and workers hired before 2007 would receive two 3 percent wage increases and two lump-sum bonuses over the life of the contract. It would also establish a new health care cooperative for all active UAW auto workers that would work to negotiate better rates and treatments from health providers without an increase for what workers pay.

The health care cooperative, combined with pay raises for both entry-level workers and legacy workers with a pay raise, largely achieves what UAW President Dennis Williams set out to deliver in contract talks.

But many workers also have said they don’t like the proposed contract because it doesn’t provide entry-level workers with a full path to the $28-per-hour average wage that workers hired before 2007 make, and a lack of clarity on a new health care cooperative.

The agreement also includes a different wage scale for entry-level workers the automaker’s Mopar parts and distribution centers. They would earn between $17 and $22 per hour while axle operators would earn between $17 and $22.35 per hour, according to the 450-page contract

“My issue with the tentative agreement is back in 2011 there was talks about a cap of 25 percent on Tier 2 workers after the life of the contract,” said Vuli. “In this new agreement their is actually another tier being added for Mopar workers and for progression employees no cap was put in place.”

This article was written by By Brent Snavely from Detroit Free Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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