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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

UAW contract with General Motors expire, odds of strikes increase

The UAW said it will work without a contract while it decides on a course of action. It had been bargaining Saturday night with the largest US automaker before a midnight deadline.

autos Updated: Sep 15, 2019 17:47 IST
David Welch
David Welch
General Motors’ contract with United Auto Workers has expired.
General Motors’ contract with United Auto Workers has expired.(AP Photo)

The United Auto Workers let its contract with General Motors Co. expire after unsuccessful talks over an extension, setting the stage for a strike by the union’s 46,000 US workers.

The UAW said it will work without a contract while it decides on a course of action. It had been bargaining Saturday night with the largest U.S. automaker before a midnight deadline.

Terry Dittes, vice president of the union’s GM Department, said in a letter to local union leaders across the country that negotiators had “significant differences.” Issues included wages, health-care benefits, the use of temporary employees, job security and profit sharing, according to a letter, which was obtained by Bloomberg.

“While we are fighting for better wages, affordable quality health care, and job security, GM refuses to put hard-working Americans ahead of their record profits of $35 billion in North America over the last three years,” Dittes said in a statement. “We are united in our efforts to get an agreement our members and their families deserve.”

If the two sides are close to getting a deal, the union typically extends the existing contract and continues bargaining. Letting it expire means the union could walk out, though Dittes said any workers scheduled for a Sunday shift would have to report to work. The union’s bargaining committee was scheduled to meet at midnight and talk to local union leaders at 10 a.m. Sunday in Detroit to decide whether to walk out.

GM had said it would work through the night to get a deal.

Around the Clock

“We continue to work hard on solutions to some very difficult challenges,” GM spokesman David Barnas said in a statement. “We are prepared to negotiate around the clock because there are thousands of GM families and their communities – and many thousands more at our dealerships and suppliers – counting on us for their livelihood. Our goal remains on building a strong future for our employees and our business.”

The backdrop to the negotiations has been marked by unprecedented chaos, with a federal corruption probe implicating the union’s president, Gary Jones, in a conspiracy to embezzle member dues and spend it on lengthy stays at luxury villas, golf equipment and cigars. GM has meanwhile been under attack by President Donald Trump for scaling back its U.S. workforce and idling plants in the key electoral battleground states of Michigan and Ohio.

A deal between the UAW and GM would have set a precedent for the jobs, wages and benefits that the union demands from Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. The UAW hasn’t said which carmaker it will target next for bargaining over a new contract. On Sept. 13, the UAW extended contracts with Ford and Fiat Chrysler.

Plant Closings

GM angered the UAW and Trump by shutting down its Chevrolet Cruze compact car plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and scheduling the end of production at another factory in Hamtramck, near Detroit, for January. Two transmission plants -- one in a Detroit suburb and another near Baltimore -- have stopped operating.

Trump has weighed in by publicly calling for GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra to open the Lordstown plant or sell it. After praising Barra in May for trying to sell the facility to the financially troubled electric-truck maker Workhorse Group Inc., he resumed his attacks last month, then hosted the CEO in the White House on Sept. 5.

Federal agents arrested Vance Pearson, Jones’s successor as head of the UAW’s largest region and a member of the union’s international executive board, on Sept. 12 and charged him with conspiracy and money laundering. While Jones wasn’t named and hasn’t been charged, his home was raided late last month, and the government’s complaint mentions the search of a current UAW officer’s residence that turned up items similar to those Pearson is accused of buying with members’ dues.

Jones’s lawyer hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

(The story has been published from a wire feed without any modifications to the text, only the headline has been changed)

First Published: Sep 15, 2019 17:42 IST

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