All six unions representing Delphi Corp. workers and retirees said yesterday that they are forming a coalition to protest proposed wage and benefits cuts at the auto supplier, a sign that the company might face a strike if it presses demands for cutbacks.
The Mobilizing at Delphi coalition will bring together unions that represent about 33,650 Delphi workers.
Delphi filed for bankruptcy protection last month, throwing itself into a battle with its unions and workers.
Chief executive Robert S. Miller Jr. said the company cannot afford the wage and benefit costs it carries and has proposed a 60 percent wage cut for some unionized workers. Miller has also mentioned the need for reductions in health care, vacation time and pensions and has said the company needs relief from what he views as inflexible work rules. He has warned that he will ask the bankruptcy court to void existing contracts unless he is able to cut costs.
Delphi, a former unit of General Motors Corp., split off as a separate company in 1999. As part of the deal, the unions negotiated wage, benefits and health care coverage that was about equal to what they received as GM employees.
"We recognize the right of our unions to represent their members. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the market realities facing Delphi, which is unable to sustain wage and benefit levels above those paid by our U.S.-based competitors," Delphi officials said in a statement.
The coalition includes the United Auto Workers, International Union of Electrical Workers-Communication Workers of America, United Steelworkers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and International Union of Operating Engineers.
The coordinated campaign is designed to develop support and solidarity among workers and retirees, as well as garner public attention and shareholder support, said Paul Krell, a UAW spokesman.
Krell would not comment on what actions the group will take in the next few weeks. He expects a blitz of information through various channels to raise public awareness of what the unions view as the bankruptcy protection's devastating impact on workers and the communities.
"We are hoping it will be the great awakening," said James Clark, president of the IUE-CWA, Delphi's second-largest union in the coalition, with 8,500 workers and 3,000 retirees. "This is not just going on with just Delphi, but the airline industry and corporate America. We're hoping this will get the attention of the public and Capitol Hill."