The April 30th deadline to reorganize looms larger by the second, and Chrysler is scrambling to make deals that could theoretically help it stave off a bankruptcy filing next week. For that to happen. Chrysler needs to get concessions from labor unions and lenders that make the financial situation palatable enough for Fiat to step in and make the automaker "financially viable" in the eyes of the President's auto industry task force. To that end, it appears that the contentious situation north of the border between the automaker and the Canadian Auto Workers union has ended in an agreement -- not that the CAW brass sounds particularly happy about it. Follow the jump for the rundown of what the proposed deal entails.
After going through what CAW leader Ken Lewenza called "the most torturous and unfair process imaginable," the union and representatives from Chrysler and Fiat struck a deal that will:
- Retain current CAW wages and pension benefits (for now, at least)
- Have Chrysler/CAW set up a health care trust modeled after the UAW's VEBA fund. CAW's Lewenza says there's still "work to do" on this and thus no implementation timetable has been set.
- End the third shift at Windsor assembly this August
- Keep all of Chrysler's Canadian plants open
- Elimination of semi-private hospital room coverage
- Elimination of the employee discount on vehicle purchases
- Elimination of a $3,500 employee vacation buyout option
- Elimination of tuition reimbursement
- Increased prescription costs
- Total time per shift for lunch, bathroom breaks to be set at 40 min
- Chrysler Canada plants to adopt Fiat's "World Class Manufacturing" production process
- Chrysler will be given flexibility to use part-time temp workers when necessary
- Suppliers will be able to work (i.e. build, assemble parts) inside the vehicle assembly plants
Despite all this, there are no guarantees whatsoever that Chrysler won't file next week anyway. Remember, The New York Times reported earlier this week that U.S. Treasury officials are already working with Chrysler on a bankruptcy filing, and that the administration effectively had a side deal in place with the UAW that would protect the union's benefits. (In response, the UAW came out and said this isn't the case, for what that's worth.) CAW's Lewenza says that Chrysler/Fiat negotiators explained to him that a Chrysler bankruptcy filing would split the automaker into "good" and "bad" companies, similar in concept to what media rumors say is in store for GM if/when it files.
And so, we wait for next Thursday, when all of this is scheduled to come to a head, one way or another. Will Chrysler score enough givebacks from its stakeholders to allow Fiat ride in on a white horse and save the day? Or will the Italian automaker simply wait for a Chrysler bankruptcy, after which it will swoop in like a vulture to pick and choose what parts of the carcass it wants to keep. Stay tuned. This is going to be a busy week in Auburn Hills.
[Sources: Detroit Free Press, CAW]