The United Auto Workers came away empty-handed--"disappointed and dismayed"--yesterday after talks with the resurgent Chrysler Corp. broke off without an agreement on the union's demand for a return to wage parity with other auto workers.
"It appears that everybody has the right to share in the wealth of this rejuvenated company except for those people who gave the most," UAW President Owen Bieber told reporters. The negotiations were Beiber's first since he was elected to the union's top post this summer.
Chrysler had proposed giving the auto workers an immediate raise of $1 an hour, which they had asked for, Beiber said, but balked at a total package that would have brought the 47,100 Chrysler workers back to parity with their co-workers at Ford and General Motors by the end of the contract.
The union indicated that it will not strike Chrysler. The current contract does not expire until Jan. 14 and the union is scheduled to return to the bargaining table late this year.
"UAW members are good workers and will continue to be," Beiber said of the rank and file's likely reaction to the failure to reach a new agreement.
The union issued a statement saying, "We are deeply disappointed and dismayed . . . . Based on our discussions over the past three days, it's clear to us that further bargaining would be useless until the contract expiration date in January."
Company officials made no immediate comment.
Chrysler workers are paid about $2 less per hour than other auto workers because of $1.2 billion in concessions they made three years ago to help save Chrysler from bankruptcy.
Still, analysts say--and union officials acknowledge--that Chrysler's labor costs remain almost as high as those of GM and Ford, primarily because of Chrysler's much-higher pension obligations.
"We're not here to commit economic suicide," a union official said before the talks broke off. "We don't want to cripple Chrysler. But even Chrysler President Lee Iaccoca agrees it's time for the workers to get some back." CAPTION: Picture 1, OWEN BEIBER . . . "those people who gave the most." Picture 2, THOMAS MINER . . . company proposal was $1 an hour.