Introduced in 2007, the two-tier wage system was enacted to allow General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to categorize its hourly employees under two categories: Tier 1 for veteran employees with full rights and benefits, and Tier 2 for short-term or entry-level employees compensated under a different schedule. The idea was that the system would permit the automakers to invest more in their plants and hire new employees as part of their respective recovery plans without being saddled with all the costs associated with hiring full-time employees.
Now that the automakers are (more or less) back on their proverbial feet, however, the UAW wants to see an end to the two-tier system, and will likely make that a center-point of its negotiations next year to replace the current arrangement that is scheduled to end in September 2015.
Not all members of the UAW will necessarily be interested in ending the two-tier system, however. According to The Detroit News, some Tier 1 workers may be more interested in negotiating a raise in their hourly rate – something which they haven't received in almost a decade. Tier 2 workers, meanwhile, may be more motivated to keep the tiered system in place, as their arrangement includes provisions for profit-sharing payments that have seen the automakers pay out billions to so-called short-term employees in lump-sum payments.
Reconciling the two competing demands from two categories of union members and presenting a united front in negotiations may prove the biggest challenge for the UAW's new president, Dennis Williams. And with the right to strike – something which was suspended during the last round of negotiations in 2011 – the union has a bigger bargaining chip in its pocket.