Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ford Asks Uaw for Health Co-Payment

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ford Asks Uaw for Health Co-Payment

Article excerpt

Ford Motor Co. became the first of Detroit's Big Three carmakers to give the United Auto Workers a contract proposal, asking that hourly workers pay part of their health-care premiums.

At a press briefing Wednesday, neither Ford nor the UAW disclosed specifics of the 15-page proposal, described by both company and union officials as a general framework to work with during the remaining three weeks of talks.

The existing three-year contract between the nation's No. 2 automaker and the union covers about 100,000 U.S. workers and expires at midnight Sept. 14. The UAW also is negotiating new contracts with General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. In all, about 400,000 U.S. auto workers are covered by the three pacts.

Union officials who declined to be identified said Ford's proposal contained a provision to have Ford-UAW members pay part of their insurance premiums for the first time in many years, and increase drug prescription payments from nominal levels of between $3 and $5.

The proposal also included an offer by Ford to make lump-sum payments to workers in each year of the new contract instead of granting wage increases, union officials said.

Ford and other automakers have traditionally asked for lump-sum payments in all years, but previous contracts have included wage increases in the first year and lump-sum payments in the second and third years.

Ford also said it wants all of its parts plants to operate profitably, or at least on a break-even level. If not, Ford could move parts work outside the company to suppliers who would probably pay their workers less than what Ford-UAW members make.

The company also said it would be willing to talk about extending the current 120-day notice to workers when it transfers production of a part outside the company.

When talks with Ford started in June, Jack Hall, Ford's chief negotiator and vice president of employee relations, said one alternative was a lower wage rate for Ford's parts workers. Ford still makes about half the parts it needs to build a car.

The UAW has adamantly opposed a lower wage for parts workers.

Ford's offer Wednesday contained no significant changes on the job security guarantees or major changes for retirees in terms of health care costs, union officials said. …

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