UAW Strike: General Motors Reportedly Fed Up
Our last update on the GM-UAW strike revolved around union reps playing hardball on issues like health care, wages, temporary employees, skilled trades, and job security. The United Auto Workers sent General Motors’ proposals back, holding its nose in disapproval.
With the strike now roughly one month deep and looking like it may disrupt the automaker’s well-laid plans, GM is firing back by suggesting the workers’ union is intentionally wasting everybody’s time. The company’s latest contract offer was issued Monday, with the union having yet to offer any formal feedback. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra even joined negotiations on Wednesday in an effort to speed up discussions. But the UAW has said it will only issue a counter proposal after five separate committees address a “series of issues” and the automaker publicly furnishes its suggestions.
“We object to having bargaining placed on hold pending a resolution of these five areas,” Scott Sandefur, GM’s vice president of North American labor relations, wrote to UAW Vice President Terry Dittes on Thursday. “As we have urged repeatedly, we should engage in bargaining over all issues around-the-clock to get an agreement.”
The document was later intercepted by Bloomberg, and seems to indicate Barra’s meeting with Dittes and UAW President Gary Jones earlier in the week could have gone better.
The messages mark a turning point for GM in the fourth week of a strike that’s halted production at 34 U.S. plants and disrupted output at factories in Mexico and Canada. While GM publicly released details of its first formal offer to the union on Sept. 15 — the day the UAW announced a walkout — the company had kept a lid on public criticism of union leaders, who themselves are dealing with a credibility crisis linked to a federal corruption investigation. GM is now upping the pressure on UAW negotiators in a bid to clinch an agreement.
GM’s latest offer boosts wages and lump-sum payments, and preserves health care benefits, Gerald Johnson, the automaker’s executive vice president of manufacturing, wrote to employees Friday. It enhances profit-sharing, including by lifting the cap on how much is paid out based on the company’s earnings. UAW members would receive bigger ratification bonuses than in 2015, when each worker was paid $8,000 signing bonuses. And the offer gives temporary workers a clear path to permanent status, Johnson said.
“We have advised the union that it’s critical that we get back to producing quality vehicles for our customers,” he wrote.
Even before the strike began, Dittes has repeatedly suggested that one of the biggest issues for the UAW is job security. GM has reduced its work force at several factories and workers are apprehensive that they could endure the same fate as Lordstown Assembly — which never got a replacement for the Chevrolet Cruze and ended up being idled. However the company has since hinted that there may be a battery plant moving into Lordstown, offering the potential promise of replacement jobs.
General Motors has also proposed investing $7 billion into U.S. facilities it said would support over 5,000 assignments and is attempting to define a pathway for temporary workers to attain full-time status. Union sources have also claimed that the most-recent health care plan being offered has received few complaints.
Consider that the silver lining. Overall, negotiations are still a bit of a mess and all sides are suffering. GM shares have fallen 11 percent since the strike began and analysts believe the company is closing in on a $1 billion profit loss. Meanwhile, direct wage losses for all employees have already surpassed $400 million and continue to climb.
[Image: Linda Parton/Shutterstock]
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