Two of the largest automakers in the U.S. are headed to court.
The attention-grabbing legal move comes on the heels a the huge strike, during which 46,000 UAW workers shut down production at General Motors for almost six weeks after the workers' four year contract expired.
General Motors is suing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles alleging the Italian-American automaker and its former CEO corrupted the negotiations with the United Auto Workers Union in 2011 and 2015.
"It (the lawsuit) can't help but complicate the already hard task of getting a UAW-FCA agreement in place", said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in MI.
GM said it will seek "substantial damages" from FCA, but did not specify an amount. GM also said it believes FCA's practices have caused GM "massive monetary damage". What kind of sweetener?
"FCA was the clear sponsor of pervasive wrongdoing, paying millions of dollars in bribes to obtain benefits, concessions, and advantages in the negotiation, implementation, and administration of labour agreements over time", according to a media release provided by GM.
Fiat Chrysler said in a statement it is "astonished by this filing, both its content and its timing" and said it assumes the lawsuit was meant to disrupt the labor negotiations tied to merger talks between it and Peugeot owner PSA.
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"Marchionne authorized these bribes, and additional things of value to UAW officials, so that FCA could more effectively compete and thrive against GM and, as detailed below, ultimately attempt to force a merger with GM", the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit characterizes Marchionne and former UAW President Dennis Willams as two key players in forcing GM's hand into a merger through corrupt bargaining.
"We intend to vigorously defend against this meritless lawsuit and pursue all legal remedies in response to it", the company said in an emailed statement.
That system has been credited in part for helping to turn around struggling operations like FCA's plant in Toledo, Ohio, that makes the popular and profitable Jeep Wrangler. That same year, GM publicly declined a merger with FCA. "The UAW leadership is absolutely committed to making whatever changes are necessary to ensure on our end the misconduct that has been uncovered will never happen again".
In a separate statement, the UAW said it had multiple safeguards in place to ensure the integrity of its contracts negotiated with Fiat Chrysler, including reviews by local and global union officials.
Fiat Chrysler did not respond to an immediate request for comment.
GM filed the suit in federal court Wednesday seeking to recoup unspecified damages from its rival, known as FCA, which has in the past denied being aware three former executives conspired with United Auto Workers officials to undermine labour law.