Uaw Official Calls Delphi Corp.'s Wage Proposal 'pathetic'

A United Auto Workers official called Delphi Corp.’s latest post-bankruptcy wage proposal “pathetic” and confirmed the union discarded the deal on Monday. “It was far short of anything we can take to our membership,” said UAW Vice President Cal Rapson, who is the union’s chief bargainer with Delphi and its former parent General Motors Corp.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said last Tuesday during the first day of the union’s bargaining convention at Cobo Center that the UAW was prepared to strike the Troy-based parts supplier if Delphi convinces the bankruptcy court to let it void existing labor contracts.

Gettelfinger intimated that a strike was not out of the question as union members prepare to defend their pay and benefits later this year in contract talks with the automakers. He added the UAW would fight at the bargaining table, in the courts, politically and “if need be on the picket line.”

Gettelfinger also took a direct shot at Delphi. Corp. Chairman Steve Miller, implying that the parts supplier’s bankruptcy was weaved to deny workers of promised benefits. “Steve Miller steered Delphi into a mechanical bankruptcy,” Gettelfinger said to rousing applause. “Miller knew nothing about the business and even less about the workers.” He said the lawyers involved in the suppliers’ bankruptcies are “bottom feeders.” “Our message is to the Steve Millers of the world. You will never do that!” The igniting issues are getting hotter that even a Nissan distributor rotor could not handle.

Gettelfinger said that equity and hedge funds are “circling overhead like never before.” He also vowed the union would protect UAW workers during any potential sale. Gettelfinger said he “has no idea” if Delphi Corp. will come back with an offer the union would find acceptable. “They had a 29 page proposal — that’s stupid. They are out of their minds,” he said.

Delphi is currently in negotiations with GM and a group of investors led by Cerberus Capital Management LP and Appaloosa Management LP to come to a potent labor deal. But the investors could pull out of the recapitalization deal if a wage-cutting deal is not achieved before long. Delphi originally asked for a more than 60 percent wage cut, which would drop its workers pay to $10 to $12 an hour.

Rapson declined to specify the union’s objections to the rejected proposal. He said, “It was wages, benefits, the amount of jobs, the job security, everything. We took that agreement, we took it to our actuaries, thoroughly reviewed it, sat down with Ron (Gettelfinger) Monday. And we rejected it.” Rapson also expressed outrage that the bankruptcy court recently approved $37 million in executive retention bonuses even as the wage cuts were being proposed to the UAW.

“Same guys who put them in Chapter 11 and they say they got to be retained,” Rapson said. “And they are dividing up that kind of money while they are asking workers to take big cuts or lose jobs completely. He added, “You know its $150 million plus already in legal fees. It’s just outrageous to us all this money being spent this way rather than putting it into the products, put it into the jobs.”

Delphi officials could not immediately be reached for comment. On the other hand, people familiar to the negotiations said more talks are scheduled for later this week.

Ryan Thomas is a native of Denver, Colorado. He grew up in a family of car afficionados. He now resides in Detroit where he owns a service shop and works part time as a consultant for a local automotive magazine.

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