Chrysler workers play catch-up

Chrysler unionists will regain wage parity with workers employed by General Motors and Ford if, as expected, they approve the terms of a new two-year contract. Owen Bieber, United Automobile Workers president, said the settlement gave him ''one of the happiest Labor Days I've had in a long time.''

The tentative settlement, to be voted on beginning Sept. 14, came Monday night, only five hours after talks resumed, writes Monitor correspondent Ed Townsend. If approved, it will give 85,000 Chrysler workers a $1-an-hour wage increase retroactive to Aug. 15 and another raise in 1984 that will bring their pay up to the levels at GM and Ford. Because of concessions made to Chrysler during its financial difficulties, workers now lag by $2.01 an hour on wages only or $2.42 an hour on the basis of pay and cost-of-living adjustments (COLA). The COLA money will also be restored under the settlement.

Chrysler workers turned down an earlier tentative agreement last July. Talks broke off and rumblings of a Chrysler strike next January were heard immediately. Top union and management officials began seeking an agreement recently in small, private meetings. On Sept. 1, Lee Iacocca, Chrysler's chairman, asked for the reopening of negotiations on ''a new proposal'' by the company. The UAW quickly agreed, and the way was cleared for a fast and amicable settlement.

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