The United Auto Workers could have a lesser voice to influence the newGroup going forward than it did with DaimlerChrysler AG, the union's president suggests.
Ron Gettelfinger says he has not been informed about the fate of his seat on the DC supervisory board, which will becomeAG with the expected third-quarter approval of a $7.4 billion deal with private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management to buy 80.1% of .
Gettelfinger is not hopeful about retaining his position, even though the deal will leavewith a 19.1% stake in Chrysler.
“Put it this way, Tom lost his seat,” Gettelfinger tells Ward's, referring to Chrysler President and CEO Tom LaSorda.
In the wake of the May announcement, DC says LaSorda and fellow Chrysler executives Eric Ridenour, chief operating officer, and global purchasing chief Tom Sidlik no longer will be on the German company's management board.
Additionally, there is widespread uncertainty about whether the UAW will have a place in a Cerberus-controlled Chrysler boardroom.
The UAW has held a place in Chrysler boardrooms almost uninterrupted since 1980, when then-president Doug Fraser negotiated the seat in return for the union's support of concessions that helped secure federal loan guarantees, saving the auto maker from dissolution. Only during a period before the 1998 absorption of Chrysler by Daimler-Benz was the UAW un-represented, a union spokesman says.
But board membership, while giving the UAW a voice when the auto maker deliberates its future, also is a curse, Gettelfinger suggests, noting he is “exposed to” information that affects his members but cannot be shared due to confidentiality restrictions.
“I don't like that, quite frankly,” he says.
Meeting recently with Cerberus officials, representatives of the UAW and Canadian Auto Workers union sought assurance that their existing contract agreements with Chrysler will be honored.
Gettelfinger is unfazed about the sale's effect on this year's contract talks. “I don't see this as having any impact,” he says.
While Cerberus was preparing its offer for Chrysler, company representatives met with Gettelfinger, who says the equity firm, which is widely expected to seek concessions from the union, gave no indication of such a move.
Gettelfinger says he expects Cerberus to allow LaSorda to carry on with an investment plan designed to improve the auto maker's position in the market.
Chrysler announced in April a $1.78 billion capital outlay in Michigan that will finance construction of a new engine plant in Trenton and significant upgrades at its pickup truck assembly site in Warren.
More investment is anticipated, Ward's is told, because the April announcements did not address Chrysler's capacity needs for those products.
Gettelfinger says he has enough information to be “comfortable” that the Cerberus plan will be good for Chrysler.