UAW President Bob King and FLOC President Baldemar Valequez speaking during a press conference at Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit when they announced a divestment campaign against Chase Bank. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
September 16, 2011
U.A.W. Reaches Tentative Agreement With General Motors
By NICK BUNKLEY
New York Times
DETROIT — The United Automobile Workers and General Motors said late Friday that they had reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract.
It is the first new labor pact for any of the Detroit carmakers since G.M. and Chrysler received government bailouts and went through bankruptcy in 2009. The deal will help G.M.’s 48,500 union workers share in the company’s turnaround and should give them more job security, two top priorities for the U.A.W., though the tenuous nature of the economic recovery will continue to inject some uncertainty.
G.M. said the deal would cover four years. The union declined to give details but said the agreement included improved profit-sharing and “significant improvements to health care benefits.” The deal was also expected to include so-called signing bonuses worth at least several thousand dollars. And the U.A.W. had been seeking a wage increase for entry-level workers, who earn about half as much as other workers.
The union said in a statement that it had successfully fought G.M.’s proposals to weaken retirement benefits and obtain major concessions to health benefits.
“In both pensions and health care, the U.A.W. was able to convince G.M. that far greater success could be achieved working together than by cutting pensions or health care,” it said.
Negotiations with Chrysler and Ford Motor are continuing.
The union’s president, Bob King, said the G.M. deal would “get our members who have been laid off back to work” and bring jobs to the United States from other countries.
“The U.A.W. approached these negotiations with new strategies and fought for and achieved some of our major goals for our members, including significant investments and products for our plants,” he said in the statement.
Negotiators met for 14 hours on Friday, two days after agreeing to extend the old contract when they were unable to reach a deal. The deal was announced shortly after 11 p.m. Friday.
“We used a creative problem solving approach to reach an agreement that addresses the needs of employees and positions our business for long-term success,” Cathy Clegg, G.M.’s vice president for labor relations, said in a statement. “We worked hard for a contract that recognizes the realities of today’s marketplace, enabling G.M. to continue to invest in U.S. manufacturing and provide good jobs to thousands of Americans.”
U.A.W. leaders from plants across the country are expected to gather in Detroit on Tuesday to vote on the deal. A ratification vote by rank-and-file workers is expected to occur in seven to 10 days, G.M. said.
Although the union did not confirm any changes to wages, its lead negotiator with G.M., Joe Ashton, said in the statement, “The wages and benefits we negotiated in this tentative agreement reflect the fact that it was U.A.W. members who helped turn this company around.”
G.M. officials had said before the start of negotiations that they wanted to tie more of workers’ pay to productivity, quality and profits. G.M. workers received profit-sharing checks averaging $4,400 this year as a result of the $4.7 billion it earned in 2010.
“There is something between the lines here that says this is an agreement that will result in a more successful General Motors and workers that share in that success,” said Harley Shaiken, a professor of labor relations at the University of California, Berkeley. “It will define competitiveness for Detroit.”
In its tradition of pattern bargaining, the union is expected to seek similar terms from Chrysler and Ford. But it is likely to have more difficulty doing so than in the past, given the disparate conditions of the three companies.
The union is expected to focus on achieving a deal at Chrysler before turning to Ford.