A member of the United Auto Workers walking the picket line at the General Motors Romulus Powertrain plant in Romulus, Michigan on Oct 9. — AP
WASHINGTON: General Motors Co and the United Auto Workers union were near a deal on Tuesday to end a 30-day strike that has cost the automaker about US$2 billion after chief executive Mary Barra and president Mark Reuss took part in contract talks, according to two people briefed on the matter.
While a final agreement has not been announced, the No. 1 U.S. automaker and the union have agreed to terms on most issues but were finalizing the wording on some matters, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the talks were ongoing. A deal will likely be announced on Wednesday.
GM declined to comment on the involvement of its top two executives in the negotiations. A UAW spokesman declined to comment.
On Monday, the UAW scheduled a meeting for Thursday morning to update local union representatives on the status of the talks, sources previously said.
Barra had met with UAW president Gary Jones and the union’s lead GM negotiator, Terry Dittes, on Oct 9 to push for a swift resolution to the strike. Prior to that, UAW officials had been urging Barra to get involved in the negotiations.
The strike began on Sept 16, with about 48,000 hourly workers of the UAW union at GM seeking higher pay, greater job security, a bigger share of profit and protection of healthcare benefits. Other issues on the table included the fate of plants GM has indicated it may close, and the use of temporary workers.
After GM angered UAW negotiators last week by appealing directly to workers and revealing details of the Detroit automaker’s latest offer, the sides have continued talking. The UAW made a counter offer to GM on Friday.
Details of GM’s revised offer emerged over the weekend and included an increase of its proposed ratification bonus by US$1,000 to $9,000. GM also proposed 3% pay raises in the second and fourth year of the four-year-contract and 3% and 4% lump sum payments in the first and fourth year respectively. It agreed to make temporary workers with three years of service permanent and give those workers a US$3,000 ratification bonus.
The Center for Automotive Research in Michigan has estimated the strike’s weekly costs to GM and the UAW strike fund at US$450 million and US$12 million, respectively.
President Donald Trump and many lawmakers have weighed in on the talks between the UAW and GM, urging the automaker to build more vehicles in the United States and shift work from Mexico.
The UAW’s membership is largely in the Midwest, in states that could be critical to both sides in the 2020 presidential election.