UAW, GM talks take a giant step back
UAW Vice President Terry Dittes says GM officials have rejected recent union contract offers.
Photo taken from 2018 UAW.org video

UAW, GM talks take a giant step back

Signs of progress last week break down during the weekend.

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October 8, 2019

Cleveland, Ohio – Ominously saying “negotiations have taken a turn for the worse,” the United Auto Workers says it remain on strike against General Motors for a fourth week after signs of progress late last week evaporated over the weekend.

Sent out late Sunday, the UAW’s message said the union had presented GM with a proposal Saturday afternoon that addressed the major issues discussed during months of negotiations between the automaker and the union. Early Sunday, the union says, GM rejected the package of 38 specific proposals and reverted to a company proposal that the union had already rejected.

“You didn’t even have a professional courtesy to explain why you could not accept or why you rejected our package proposal for each item we addressed,” UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said in an open letter to GM negotiator Scott Sandefur. “We expect the company to respond and discuss the package proposal we presented yesterday. The law and basic decency require no less.”

As the strike drags on (workers have been on strike since Sept. 16), both sides are feeling economic pain. GM has had to shutter plants in Mexico because of a lack of U.S.-made parts, and The Detroit Free Pressreported Monday that the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, a hotly anticipated mid-engine version of the iconic sports car, will be delayed because the Bowling Green, Kentucky, plant that makes it will have to fill orders for 2019 models before retooling for the new version, and there’s not enough time left in 2019 to do both.

On the union side, workers are making $250 per week from the UAW’s strike fund, though GM continues to make healthcare insurance payments. On picket lines, workers are pledging to stay on strike as long as it takes to win a good contract, but few can afford to live on the $13,000 annual salary generated by that $250 weekly payout.

GM officials declined to comment on the status of talks, other than to say that company negotiators continue to meet with the UAW.

Based on UAW letters to members and published reports, the big sticking point has been GM’s use of temporary workers – people who get paid less than half of what full-time workers make to do the same jobs. The union has argued for a system that would convert temps to full-time employees quickly, while GM has fought for the flexibility gained by having large numbers of temps.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 19 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

rschoenberger@gie.net