As sales at US automakers continue to fall through the floor, Chrysler and GM are trying desperately to hammer out a merger as their sales and cash reserves evaporate. They are currently seeking $10-12 billion dollars in government support to cover merger-related expenses. It’s unclear how the merger of two money-losing companies would combine to make a profitable one.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger has expressed alarm at the deal’s potential for massive job losses. The latest estimates are that Chrysler alone would have to cut more than half of its current workforce of 67,000 employees, and an additional 50,000 jobs in related industries would be in danger, according to the consulting firm of Grant Thornton.
To complicate matters, the two cash-starved companies are currently facing payments of $7 billion each by 2010 into a the voluntary Employee beneficiary association, or VEBA, a trust fund designed to cover the future health care costs for union retirees. Any changes to the fund resulting from a merger would need union approval.
The UAW is trying to reinsert itself as a major player in the talks, and has recently hired top ex-auto industry execs to help with its lobbying efforts.