Speaking at a press conference late Monday, April 5, the UAW president said the union’s voluntary employee beneficiary association is likely to sell its majority stake in Chrysler to fund retiree health care if the stock appreciates within a couple of years.
“As soon as the VEBA’s in a position to sell stock, we will sell stock to keep the VEBA going,” Gettelfinger said.
Under the Obama administration’s recovery plan for the automaker, the UAW will receive Chrysler stock in exchange for forgoing cash payments originally required for the VEBA.
The UAW would get a 55 percent stake in Chrysler and partner Fiat S.p.A. would take an initial 20 percent. The U.S. Treasury would own 8 percent and Canadian governments 2 percent. The union’s shares would be nonvoting.
Gettelfinger said he believed a Chrysler bankruptcy could be averted until late on Wednesday, April 29, when he received a phone call saying that negotiations with creditors were breaking down. Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy the next day.
Chrysler plans to complete an alliance with Fiat during a court-supervised reorganization. Gettelfinger said he is optimistic that Chrysler can move quickly through a “managed bankruptcy” and forge a successful partnership.
“I think it will move forward expeditiously,” he said. “We’ll see what happens, though. There’s always the unknown factor.”
Gettelfinger also said that the UAW has met with Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne several times and is beginning to build a relationship with him. UAW leaders will meet with Italian union leaders and tour Fiat plants, he said.