Sat | Sep 26, 2020

Tentative GM deal reached

Published:Thursday | October 17, 2019 | 12:10 AM

Bargainers for General Motors (GM) and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative contract deal on Wednesday that could end a month-long strike that brought the company’s United States-based factories to a standstill.

The deal, which the union says offers “major gains” for workers, was hammered out after months of bargaining, but won’t bring an immediate end to the strike by 49,000 hourly workers.

They were likely stay on the picket lines for at least two more days as two union committees vote on the deal that the members will have to approve.

Terms of the tentative four-year contract were not released, but it’s likely to include some pay raises, lump sum payments to workers, and requirements that GM build new vehicles in US factories.

Analysts say the strike probably cost GM US$2 billion in lost production, while workers lost on average more than US$3,000 in wages and had to live on US$250 per week in strike pay.

“Everybody lost out on this. We did, they did,” said Mark Nichols, who works at GM’s transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio.

Nichols, who thought the strike would last only a week or two, said he’s ready to get back to work because his savings are running low. “I just hope it gets done,” he said.

The deal now will be used as a template for talks with GM’s cross-town rivals, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. Normally the major provisions carry over to the other two companies and cover about 140,000 auto workers nationwide. It wasn’t clear which company the union would bargain with next, or whether there would be another strike.

Early on, GM offered new products in Detroit and Lordstown, Ohio, two of the four US cities where it planned to close factories.

The company said it would build a new electric pickup truck to keep the Detroit-Hamtramck plant open, and to build an electric vehicle battery factory in or near Lordstown, Ohio, where GM is closing an assembly plant. The battery factory would employ far fewer workers and pay less money than the assembly plant.

If all of the committees bless the deal, it’s likely to take several days for GM to get its factories restarted.

Union leaders from factories nationwide will travel to Detroit for a vote today, Thursday. The earliest workers could return would be after that.

The strike had shut down 33 GM manufacturing plants in nine states across the US, and also took down factories in Canada and Mexico. It was the first national strike by the union since a two-day walkout in 2007, and the longest since a 54-day strike in Flint, Michigan, in 1998 that also halted most of GM’s production.