Not since 1982 have negotiators for the United Auto Workers and Chrysler squared off for comprehensive contract talks. When U.A.W. President Owen Bieber and Tom Miner, Chrysler's vice president of labor relations, shook hands last week to open new negotiations, the circumstances were very different from those surrounding the earlier talks. In 1982 Chrysler was just starting to come back from a brush with bankruptcy, its veins full of bailout money. Today the company is robust, its sales up and Government-backed loans of $1.2 billion paid off.
Mindful of Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca's compensation of $5.5 million last year, U.A.W. negotiators came to the first meeting wearing buttons saying LEE GOT HIS. WE WANT OURS. They called for the carmaker to set up a profit-sharing plan for its 69,000 workers at 46 U.S. sites. Another issue that may complicate efforts to forge a contract before the October 15 deadline is the location of new plants. The union wants a promise from Chrysler that it will build the Liberty, a subcompact designed to compete with General Motors' Saturn, in the U.S. rather than in South Korea or some other country that offers low-cost labor.SHIPPING S.O.S. from Japan's Sanko
To envious outsiders, Japanese business often seems to be an uninterrupted success story. But not last week. Japan's Sanko Steamship, the world's largest tanker operator, filed for protection from its creditors under the country's bankruptcy laws. The company's debts total $2.2 billion, making it the largest bankruptcy case in Japanese history.
The collapse had political as well as economic repercussions. It led to the swift resignation of Toshio Komoto, 74, a Cabinet Minister Without Portfolio in the Japanese government. He helped found Sanko in 1934 and remained its largest individual shareholder even after becoming a leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in 1982.
Sanko's troubles began in 1973 when the Arab oil embargo dealt a severe blow to the world shipping industry by reducing the demand for tankers. Instead of taking that as a warning signal, Sanko continued to expand its fleet, despite growing competition from companies based in other Asian countries. By 1983 an oversupply of tankers had swamped the industry, and Sanko slipped into the red. While in bankruptcy proceedings, Sanko will try to stay afloat by scuttling some of its 264-ship fleet.ENERGY Slippery Job for Lloyd's
Venerable Lloyd's of London, the 297-year-old insurance exchange, has often accepted offbeat jobs. Its member underwriters have insured ships against sinking, actresses against breaking their legs, and at least one rock star (David Lee Roth of the Van Halen group) against paternity suits. The latest unusual client: the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC has hired a Lloyd's subsidiary to help find out which countries in the 13-member cartel are exceeding their production quotas and thus depressing oil prices.