Union Leader Faults Lack of National Health Plan
The lack of action on a single-payer national health care system has led to problems for U.S. automakers, United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger said on Monday at the 34th annual UAW convention in Las Vegas, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports. Gettelfinger also said that UAW agreements last year to make health benefit concessions to GM and Ford were difficult for him but necessary to address the large retiree health benefit liabilities of the companies and to protect future benefits.
Under the agreements, UAW retirees and their dependents for the first time will pay part of their health insurance premiums, annual deductibles and copayments. Hourly UAW employees will have to contribute some of their future wage increases to a trust for health care costs.
According to the AP/Chronicle, GM in 2005 spent about $5.4 billion on health benefits for 1.1 million employees, retirees and their dependents, and Ford spent about $3.5 billion for 550,000 employees, retirees and their dependents.
Gettelfinger said that UAW must develop a new relationship with automakers, which face difficult times because of high health care costs and other issues. He said, "Like it or not, these challenges aren't the kind that can be ridden out. They demand new and farsighted solutions, and we must be an integral part of developing these solutions."
UAW members on Wednesday likely will re-elect Gettelfinger to a second term as union president (Krisher, AP/Houston Chronicle, 6/13).