GM Strike Enters Fifth Week; UAW Boosts Strike Pay
Few expected the labor action by U.S. General Motors workers to last this long, but no one expected reaching a collective agreement to be easy, either. As the the strike by UAW-affiliated GM workers enters its fifth week, picketing workers can expect an extra $25 a week from the union’s strike fund.
GM, on the other hand, can expect its dealers to face increased difficulty in sourcing certain replacement parts, while others worry about the prospect of subpar inventory.
As reported by CNN, the UAW’s bargaining team presented a new comprehensive offer to GM on Friday, with both sides engaged in talks through the weekend. Monday dawned with no word on any movement on the issue.
In addition to the marginally boosted strike pay, the UAW also lifted the cap on cash earned at outside jobs. Starting Sunday, workers moonlighting at other jobs can keep the full strike payment, regardless of what they made in their alternate gig. Strike payments are typically clawed back on a dollar-for-dollar basis after the worker passes the $250 threshold.
In a new tactic, striking workers might start leafletting GM dealers today, a source told CNN.
In addition to a host of other issues, health care sits near the top of UAW concerns in this latest round of bargaining. With GM and other Detroit Three automakers looking to slim down in an era of shrinking auto sales and economic uncertainty, offering generous health benefits represents a major cost to each company. None more so than Ford, which employs the most hourly workers of the three.
As reported by the Detroit Free Press, an agreement reached between GM and the UAW that keeps the previous health care arrangement intact would have financial repercussions for Ford. Too keep an agreement where workers cover just 3 percent of their health care costs — an agreement GM briefly abandoned earlier in the bargaining process — the automakers would undoubtedly seek concessions in other areas. Unions are not prone to accept concessions lightly.
Indeed, in its last letter to members (dated October 4th), UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said “we have made good progress regarding the issues of health care and a path for temporary employees becoming seniority members.” That was 10 days ago.
Whatever deal the bargaining teams of GM and UAW reach, Ford and Fiat Chrysler will be compelled to offer a contract agreement that matches certain key elements of the GM pact. Health care is one of those elements.
“We are focused on reaching a fair agreement with the UAW that allows Ford to be more competitive so we can continue to preserve and protect good-paying manufacturing jobs and maintain our track record of investing in our U.S. plants,” said Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker in response to a Freep inquiry about the likelihood of keeping the health care status quo.
[Image: General Motors]
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