July 15 (UPI) -- Ford Motor Co. and United Auto Workers leaders began labor negotiations at the Detroit automaker's headquarters Monday.
Contracts between unions and the United States' largest automakers are all set to expire on Sept. 14, and Ford kicked off negotiations, with General Motors and Fiat Chrysler set to meet with union leaders Tuesday.
More than 100 UAW leaders and workers gathered at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., on Monday for the negotiations on wages and benefits for American autoworkers for the next four years. Ford CEO Jim Hackett and UAW President Gary Jones began the proceedings with a ceremonial handshake.
Jones began the meeting by noting that profits for auto companies are currently high and therefore workers shouldn't be required to face cuts in pay or benefits.
"The Big Three are more profitable in North America than any of their competitors," Jones said. "Despite record profits, labor is still being asked to make concessions. This must stop."
Jones also lamented the "race to the bottom" in the auto industry and pledged to fight against companies paying lower wages in the United States, Mexico, China and other countries and warned of the possibility of strikes in response to the increased use of outsourcing and temporary workers.
Automakers are seeking to lower spending in anticipation of a decrease in demand and production in the coming years.
"What we did together to save our company in '08 and '09 and the sacrifices back then, that will be something I will remember for the rest of my life," Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said. "There will be tough issues and we will have disagreements. We always do. But we always do what is right for the company. I expect that to happen this time."