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Auto workers, Fiat Chrysler reach tentative contract with $9K signing bonus

Evie Fordham

The United Auto Workers and Fiat Chrysler reached a tentative agreement Saturday on a new four-year contract, which includes a total of $9 billion in investments but still needs final approval from workers.

Both sides declined to offer details on the deal, but it includes a $9,000 signing bonus, a promise not to close any factories for the next four years and a commitment to keep making vehicles at a plant in Belvidere, Illinois, according to a person briefed on the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential.

The UAW-FCA national council will meet Dec. 4 to go over the details of the tentative deal. If adopted, it would go to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ 47,000 union workers, and a vote by hourly and salary workers could begin on Dec. 6.

The agreement, if approved, will complete the union's negotiations with all of the big three automakers and allow Fiat Chrysler to focus on its merger with French automaker Peugeot. GM settled Oct. 31 after a bitter 40-day strike that paralyzed the company’s U.S. factories, but Ford reached a deal quickly and settled in mid-November.

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Talks have focused on Fiat Chrysler for almost two weeks, and both sides negotiated into the early morning hours earlier this week before taking a break for the Thanksgiving holiday.

"Since our brothers and sisters at Ford ratified their national agreement, your national negotiating team has intensified our discussions" with Fiat, Cindy Estrada, director of UAW's Fiat Chrysler department, wrote earlier in the week. "While we have had a few outside distractions since then, your negotiators have remained focused on resolving all your outstanding demands."

The $9,000 signing bonus isn’t as much as the $11,000 that GM workers got, but it’s equal to the money paid to Ford workers. Both companies gave workers a mix of pay raises and lump-sum payments, signing bonuses, an end to a two-tier pay scale for full-time workers and a clear path for temporary workers to go full-time.

The Illinois factory west of Chicago that will continue production now makes the Jeep Cherokee small SUV; it employs about 3,700 union workers on two shifts.

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The union also got commitments for new vehicles to be built at several GM and Ford factories.

Even if union leaders approve the deal, though, ratification isn’t guaranteed. In 2015, workers voted down the first deal reached with Fiat Chrysler but approved a second one.

Fiat Chrysler apparently is adhering to the “pattern” agreement reached with GM and Ford even though the company’s CEO said earlier this month that all of the companies are in different labor circumstances. Following the same deal would cost Fiat Chrysler more because the makeup of its workforce is different.

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Fiat has more temporary workers than either GM or Ford, and it also has more so-called “second-tier” workers hired after 2007 who now make less than longtime workers.

The Fiat Chrysler talks may be complicated by an ongoing federal bribery and embezzlement investigation into some of the UAW’s leadership, which started at Fiat Chrysler. Many workers at the company have been suspicious of the union’s leadership since the scandal became public in 2017.

Union President Gary Jones, whose home was raided by federal agents, resigned last week, and Vice President Rory Gamble is now acting president. GM, meanwhile, has filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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