Ford, UAW leaders clash as car strike costs rise

DEARBORN, Michigan, Oct 16 (Reuters) – Ford ( FN ) CEO Bill Ford urged the United Auto Workers union on Monday to end a 32-day strike and reach a new labor contract. American economy.

“We can stop this now,” Ford said of last week’s expanded strike to close the Kentucky plant.

Ford made his plea at a press conference at the automaker’s historic Rouge Assembly Plant, near the company’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

UAW President Shawn Fine responded to Ford with a statement that the union could “shut Rouge down” with a strike. “If Ford wants to be an all-American auto company, they can afford to pay all-American wages and benefits,” Fine said.

More than 34,000 union members working at Ford, General Motors ( GM.N ) and Chrysler parent Stellantis ( STLAM.MI ) are on strike.

Meanwhile, sources said talks between Stellandis and the UAW intensified Monday.

A new report Monday estimated that the strikes cost Detroit Three automakers, suppliers, dealers and workers a total of $7.7 billion through Oct. 12.

“We have entered the danger zone for many suppliers,” AEG said in a statement.

Ford, the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford, said automakers like Toyota, Honda, Tesla and others “like this strike because it lasts longer and it’s good for them.”

In response, Fine said Tesla and other non-unionized U.S. automakers “are not the enemy — they are future UAW members.”

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Ford said the UAW walkout at Kentucky Truck, Ford’s largest and most profitable assembly operation worldwide, “affects tens of thousands of American workers.” If this continues, it will have a huge impact on the US economy.

On Friday, Fine accused Ford of trying to negotiate with insufficient concessions and urged Ford to drastically increase compensation. Fine said Ford CEO Jim Farley “must have a big checkbook — one that Ford uses when it wants to spend millions on corporate executives or Wall Street gifts.”

Fine also vowed to strike at additional plants at any time.

On Thursday, a senior Ford executive told the UAW that the automaker was “in range” for higher wages and benefits. Its latest offer includes a 23% wage increase through early 2028, more than GM or Stellantis offered. Ford has said the UAW’s proposals would be bankrupt if implemented in 2019.

Ford has long portrayed himself and his family’s company as the most union-friendly in the industry, he said in a news release Monday.

The union called Ford an “enemy,” Ford said. “It should be Ford and the UAW against Toyota, Honda, Tesla and all the Chinese companies,” he said.

Harley Shaigan, a labor professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said Ford wants to talk directly to workers.

“He’s doing this to move the talks so that he’s more likable,” Shaigan said, but added, “It’s not going to work.”

The UAW may target Ford because it has the best offer on the table, and the union thinks it can get the automaker to agree to a deal that could put pressure on GM and Stellantis to match. GM and Stellantis did not immediately comment.

Report of Joseph White in Dearborn; By David Shepherdson; Additional reporting by Ben Clayman Editing by Franklin Ball, David Gregorio and Grant McCool

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Joe White is a global automotive correspondent for Reuters based in Detroit. Joe covers a wide range of auto and transportation industry subjects and writes for The Auto File, a three-times-weekly newsletter about the global automotive industry. Joe joined Reuters in January 2015 as lead transport editor for planes, trains and automobiles, and later became global auto editor. Previously, he served as global auto editor for The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw coverage of the auto industry and ran the Detroit bureau. Co-author (with Paul Ingrassia) of Comeback: The Fall and Rise of the American Automobile Industry, Joe shared the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting.

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