(BBC News) Staff at three of the biggest carmakers in the U.S. have gone on strike in an unprecedented, co-ordinated action.
More than 10,000 workers are participating in the walkout, which targets plants owned by General Motors (GM), Ford, and Stellantis.
The firms and the United Auto Workers union (UAW) are fighting over terms of new labour agreements.
The work stoppage threatens to trigger higher car prices and major disruption for the motor industry giants.
As the current contract expired on Thursday, the UAW’s president Shawn Fain told the BBC it was now up to the companies to resolve the dispute.
“When they start taking care of their workers, it will end,” he said.
The strike started at midnight eastern time at GM’s Wentzville, Missouri, mid-size truck plant, Ford’s Bronco plant in Michigan, and the Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, owned by Stellantis.
The plants are critical to the production of some of the “Detroit Three’s” most profitable vehicles.
Other facilities will continue to operate, the UAW said, but it did not rule out broadening the strikes beyond the initial three targets.
A strike against all three companies at the same time is unprecedented in the union.
With the deadline looming on Thursday, the White House said that President Joe Biden had spoken on the phone with Fain about the negotiations but provided no further details. Biden is scheduled to address the action in remarks on Friday.
The union had sought a 40% pay increase for its roughly 140,000 members over four years, noting a comparable rise in pay for company leaders.
Other demands included:
- a four-day working week
- the return of automatic pay increases tied to inflation
- stricter limits on how long workers can be considered “temporary” staff who do not receive union benefits
As of Wednesday, the three companies had improved their proposals, offering as much as a 20% pay rise.