Union Join Automakers in Pledge to Make Sacrifices

Will modify contract and delay payments to health care fund

Auto workers on Dec. 3 stood by ailing carmakers, vowing to make tough sacrifices in exchange for a massive $34 billion government bailout to save the vital industry from collapse. Union boss Ron Gettelfinger said the union was "willing to take an extra step to move this along."

He said the United Auto Workers (UAW) was prepared to modify the union's contract and delay billions in payments to a health care fund as its part in helping to secure the future of the core industry.

"Are we going to blame the auto workers, who are by the way 10% of the cost of automobile," Gettelfinger asked. "Or are we going to take a look at what's happened to our economy, to the housing crunch to the Wall Street bailout and the failures on Wall Street?"

At stake are millions of jobs, many of them in Detroit, but also in secondary industries around the country. GM, which is considered to be at the greatest risk of collapse, said it will reduce its U.S. workforce by nearly a third from the current level of 96,537 people to between 65,000 and 75,000 salaried and unionized workers by 2012 and cut the number of US plants from 47 in 2008 to 38 in 2012.

Asked about his response to plans for further job cuts, Gettelfinger said he did not fundamentally oppose them. "This is an issue that we will have to work through," he told a press conference in Detroit. "Hopefully we can get this industry growing again."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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