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UAW scales back contracts

In a nod of recognition to Detroit's hard times, the United Automobile Workers, with more than 230,000 of its 1.2 million members idle, has authorized the reopening of company contracts for wage and benefit concessions that could salvage thousands of jobs in the ailing auto and farm equipment industries, Monitor labor correspondent Ed Townsend writes.

The decision broke with tradition - with the exception of Chrysler. UAW in the past has barred reopenings to scale down contracts to meet changing industry conditions.

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But union president Douglas A. Fraser said that not all employers could expect reopenings. UAW councils for each company are responsible for contracts which, up to now, have been based on the national pattern. Now companies can appeal to the union's councils for relief, either companywide or for a plant that is in trouble, and the council is free to take whatever action it considers in the best interests of the workers involved.

The union says it has been flooded with requests for reopenings: General Motors, Ford, American Motors, and International Harvester have all asked for contract concessions. Most UAW contracts don't expire until late next year.

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