DETROIT, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Closing a wage gap between new hires and established workers is job one, United Auto Workers President Bob King says.
In 2007, the UAW agreed to a two-tier wage system allowing automakers to hire new workers at about half the hourly rate of established workers, who average $28 per hour, The Detroit News reported Tuesday.
At the time, automakers were struggling with a prolonged slump that dovetailed with the worst U.S. economic downturn since the Great Depression. The idea was to help U.S. automakers with unionized workforces bring costs in line with foreign car companies that operate non-union factories in the United States.
With U.S. automakers posting a profit, however, "I would say that's our highest priority," said King, referring to a UAW initiative to bring wages for new hires into line with first tier workers.
"We're very concerned about that entry-level member having a middle-class standard of living, which I would argue they don't at the current rates," King said to reporters after speaking at the Detroit Economic Club Monday.
King has also said union valued a compensation package that allowed U.S. automakers to make a profit.
"Our companies face a lot of competition. We just want to make sure that we come out of this negotiation over the next four years structuring our companies to succeed. If you add fixed costs, they won't be able to do that," King said.