By Ben Klayman and David Shepardson
DETROIT (Reuters) – The United Auto Workers union said it would announce on Friday more U.S. plants to strike if no serious progress was made in talks with the Detroit Three automakers, and there is growing concern that the sides are too far apart for a deal to come together before that dateline.
The UAW last week launched a strike against Ford, General Motors and Chrysler parent Stellantis, targeting one U.S. assembly plant at each company. It is the first time the UAW has taken action simultaneously against all three Detroit automakers.
It was not clear when main-table bargaining was resuming after lengthy talks on Monday. Concerns are mounting among some auto officials and congressional aides that no deal will be reached before the Friday noon deadline.
The U.S. strike is now in its fifth day with little sign of progress toward a deal. Some 12,700 of the UAW’s 150,000 total members who work at the Big Three are on strike, and analysts expect plants that build more profitable pickup trucks like Ford’s F-150, GM’s Chevy Silverado and Stellantis’ Ram would be the next targets if the walkout continues.
U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said on Tuesday her message to automakers and the UAW was to stay at the table and “listen to each other.”
The union and companies are at loggerheads over pay and benefits for workers. The three automakers have proposed 20% raises over the 4-1/2-year term of their proposed deals, though that is only half of what the UAW is demanding through 2027.
The UAW at one point during the talks offered to lower its demand to 36%, but workers have pressed for the automakers to eliminate their tiered pay structure that pays newer workers much less for the same jobs as veterans.
“We’re not going to keep waiting around forever while they drag this out,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in a video message late on Monday setting the new deadline after complaining about a lack of progress in recent talks. “We’re not messing around.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said it was premature to forecast the strike’s impact on the economy, which would depend on how long the action lasted and what was affected.
The strikes have halted production at plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri that produce the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado, alongside other popular models.
Ford on Friday furloughed 600 workers who are not on strike at the Michigan Bronco plant because of the impact of the work stoppage. GM said it expected to halt operations at its Kansas car plant early this week because of the strike at its nearby Missouri plant, affecting 2,000 workers.
‘SUBSTANTIVE OFFER’ IN CANADA
Separately, a Canadian union extended its deadline for negotiations at Ford’s operations in Canada by one day. Ford’s contract with Canadian union Unifor, which represents about 5,600 workers at three plants in Canada, expired at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday (0359 GMT on Tuesday).
Unifor said early on Tuesday that negotiations had been extended for 24 hours after it received a “substantive offer” from Ford. “Unifor members should continue to maintain strike readiness,” it said.
A walkout by Canadian workers that shut those engine plants could cripple U.S. production of Ford’s most profitable vehicles, even if the UAW decides not to order walkouts at truck plants in Kentucky; Dearborn, Michigan; and Kansas City, Missouri.
Ford said in a statement it had agreed to continue negotiations beyond the contract deadline in hopes of reaching a tentative agreement.
The company has two engine plants in Canada that build V-8 motors for F-series and Super Duty pickups assembled in the United States. It also has an assembly plant in Ontario.
Unifor has been seeking improved wages and pensions, as well as support in the transition to electric vehicles and additional investment commitments by Ford.
Unifor will turn to getting agreements with GM and Stellantis after the Ford deal is completed.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Jahnavi Nidumolu in Bengaluru and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by David Gaffen, Jamie Freed and Matthew Lewis)
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