United Auto Workers leaders met in Detroit yesterday to reveiw ways to cut nearly $260 million in wages from the three-year contract negotiated with the Chrysler Corp. last November. More talks are scheduled today.
Union officials said they will be ready to offer a reworked contract proposal to the company by Friday.
The scaled-down contract is needed to secure $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees for the nation's stumbling No. 3 automaker. Congress approved the rescue loan package last month on condition that Chrysler come up with $2 billion in assorted concessions by its employes, creditors, dealers and suppliers.
The most critical element of that package is the renegotiation of the UAW's 1979 contract, which already contains $203 million in pay concessions designed to help Chrysler right itself.
Congress is asking the union to come up with an additional $260 million. The 16 members of the UAW international negotiating committee who met yesterday to find ways of further cutting the pay said, through union spokesmen, that they had no definite wage reduction proposals.
However, Uaw President Douglas Fraser said he and other members of the committee were against cutting cost of living adjustment (COLA), pension and health care benefits. That leaves paid holidays and step increases in wages, among some other elements in the contract, as possible targets.
One UAW spokesman, who only wanted to be identified as such, said the committee discovering a problem with the union's estimated 14,000 Canadian members.
"The Canadians are objecting to the congressional plan because they see it as something fashioned by the United States government," the spokesman said. He said Fraser and other UAW leaders will take a brief trip to Canada today "to try to explain to the Canadians what the plan is all about." c
Still, UAW officials expressed optitmism yesterday that they would have a new agreement with the company before the end of January.
They really have no choice.
In a recent interview, chief UAW spokesman Don Stillman put it this way:
"Without a new contract containing concessions, the (rescue) legislation is dead. If the rescue legislation is dead, Chrysler is dead."