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The United Auto Workers (UAW) has long eyed this year as a chance for workers who sacrificed to keep the Detroit 3 afloat a decade ago to be rewarded with a bigger piece of the huge profits rolling into their employers’ coffers.

Instead, the union finds the automakers back to belt tightening and job cutting.

Automotive News reported that despite an economy that’s become healthier since the previous few rounds of contract talks, the scene is set for this year’s negotiations to be even tougher as both sides stubbornly dig in their heels.

Union leaders are likely to argue that record profits over the past four years — along with lucrative executive bonuses — should translate to bigger raises, better health care and more job security for members, many of whom still seethe over concessions made during the Great Recession.

But the automakers, determined not to fall back into old habits, are acting as if the current boom is already in the rearview mirror. Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are preparing for a downturn as they try to narrow a labor cost gap that sees them pay up to $13 more an hour than their foreign counterparts.

The challenges don’t stop at the bargaining table. Even if the two sides find compromise in forging a new pact, they likely face one of the most contentious paths to ratification in recent memory.

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