Negotiators for the United Auto Workers said early Thursday that they agreed to a new contract with the Fiat Chrysler US auto company, thus averting a possible strike.
A previous tentative four-year deal was rejected on October 1 by 65 per cent of the 40,000 employees that the union represents at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ US unit.
Details of the new deal — which needs to be ratified by local union leaders, and then the workers — have not been made public.
FCA is scheduled to spinoff luxury sports car maker Ferrari in an IPO in October. But the timing of a potential strike raised the specter of the IPO being delayed, undermining FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne’s to see Ferrari valued at as much as $US11 billion.
The Ferrari IPO hasn’t yet been priced. FCA want to spin off the brand to raise funds to retire debt and expand Marchionne’s plans to expand FCA’s product lineup globally.
The labour negotiations are followed closely because any UAW-Fiat Chrysler deal will serve as a template in upcoming talks between the union and General Motors and Ford, the other top US automakers.
“After a lengthy bargaining process, your UAW FCA National Bargaining Committee has secured significant gains in a proposed Tentative Agreement” with Fiat Chrysler, the UAW said on its Facebook site late Wednesday (around 0430 GMT Thursday).
UAW negotiators had set a midnight Wednesday deadline to reach an agreement. The union had threatened to strike if there was no deal.
The negotiators “unanimously voted to send the proposed Tentative Agreement to local union leaders who make up the union’s UAW National Chrysler Council,” the union’s statement read.
The Council will meet in Detroit at 11 am Friday (1500 GMT) “to discuss and vote on the agreement.”
If they approve the contract then it will be submitted to a full membership vote.
Fiat Chrysler’s previous offer was rejected because workers wanted a large portion of the workforce hired over the past four years be included in the higher paying “first tier” of wages that workers hired before 2007 earn.
Roughly 43 per cent of the workforce now collects second-tier wages, and critics said that should be reduced to 25 per cent under a contract provision negotiated in 2011.
The second-tier workers were hired during the 2008-2009 recession, when FCA’s predecessor, the Chrysler Group, went bankrupt and required a federal bailout to stay in business.
FCA was launched in 2014 after Italian automaker Fiat bought the third-largest US automaker.
The UAW has traditionally negotiated similar contracts with all three automakers to prevent their employers from suffering competitive disadvantages.