AUBURN HILLS, Mich., July 21 (UPI) -- The future of the U.S. auto industry was on the table as contract talks began in suburban Detroit between car makers and the United Auto Workers union.
Automakers want to erase a $30 gap in hourly labor costs that puts them at a disadvantage with Japanese rivals, The Detroit News reported Saturday.
The UAW is equally committed to protecting wages and benefits, especially after agreeing to unprecedented concessions in recent years on health care, factory work rules and job cuts, The News said.
"The key issue is can we have competitive firms and middle-class jobs," asked Harley Shaiken, a labor expert at the University of California, Berkeley.
The talks come amid changes in the U.S. auto industry: Troy-based Delphi Corp. and other suppliers are reorganizing under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. DaimlerChrysler AG is selling Chrysler to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP and General Motors and Ford are restructuring and cutting thousands of jobs.