UAW seeks to bolster ties with Fiat’s Italian unions

By Tim Higgins
Bloomberg News / March 24, 2011

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DETROIT — The United Auto Workers plans to meet in June with the Italian unions that represent workers of Fiat, which runs Chrysler Group, as part of an effort to strengthen their ties.

“They’re eager to sit down and talk with us,’’ UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who heads the union’s Chrysler department, said in an interview.

Fiat, based in Turin, Italy, plans to invest $28.3 billion revamping its domestic plants in return for having union workers put in more hours, take shorter breaks, and risk having pay withheld for persistent absenteeism. Current negotiations over the plan at Fiat’s Grugliasco plant are “worrisome,’’ Labor Minister Maurizio Sacconi said.

UAW President Bob King is seeking to forge stronger relationships with unions representing workers at the overseas operations of Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors Co. and to organize foreign automakers’ factories in the United States.

“We’re building a broad international coalition,’’ King said Tuesday during the UAW’s bargaining convention in Detroit.

The UAW met with trade union leaders from Ford’s global operations six months ago and is seeking a framework for an agreement to protect workers’ rights around the world, King said.

The UAW’s GM department is working on a similar effort and had its first meeting a month ago, he said.

It’s “about having a unified labor movement globally so they don’t pit workers in Germany against workers in England against workers in Brazil against workers in the United States,’’ King said.