GM appeals directly to UAW workers: 'The strike has been hard on you, your families ...'

Tensions appear to be rising over the pace of bargaining

DETROIT — General Motors took the unusual step of appealing directly to employees in a blog post on Friday that laid out the terms of its latest offer aimed at ending a monthlong strike.

While emphasizing GM's commitment to the collective bargaining process, the letter, signed by Executive Vice-President for Global Manufacturing Gerald Johnson, circumvents United Auto Workers (UAW) leadership and points to frustration at a lack of progress on ending a conflict that has already cost the company more than $1 billion.

"The strike has been hard on you, your families, our communities, the Company, our suppliers and dealers," it read, saying the latest offer increased compensation and profit-sharing, promised a path to full-time jobs for temporary workers, leaves health-care benefits intact with no cost increases to workers, and invests in the company's U.S. manufacturing operations.

"We have advised the Union that it’s critical that we get back to producing quality vehicles for our customers. (...) Our offer builds on the winning formula we have all benefitted from over the past several years."

Johnson wrote: "From the outset, General Motors has been committed to an agreement that is fair and worthy of our team members’ support. That’s why before the contract deadline, we made an offer that we felt was strong. And since that offer, we’ve done even more to address the issues the UAW has brought forward."

He said an offer GM presented on Monday "would increase compensation through wages and lump sum payments, preserve industry-leading health care benefits without increasing out-of-pocket costs, enhance profit-sharing with unlimited upside, and improve the ratification bonus. For temporary workers, our offer also would create a clear path to permanent employment and include a ratification bonus.

"Our offer commits to thousands of new jobs right here in the U.S. and billions of dollars in new investments in our communities."

The strike could cost the automaker about $1.5 billion, brokerage Credit Suisse said on Friday, throwing the U.S. automaker's cost reduction plans off the track and forcing key suppliers to cut their 2019 outlook.

The brokerage's calculation assumed the strike, currently in its 26th day, will last until Oct. 21.

GM, which likely lost production of about 100,000 vehicles in the third quarter, is at the risk of losing another 170,000 vehicles in the current quarter, the brokerage said, with the impact spreading to some of GM's facilities in Mexico and Canada that receive parts from its U.S. factories.

General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra stepped in on Wednesday, asking the union to wrap up outstanding issues and respond to a company offer made this week. GM VP for labor Scott Sandefur in a letter urged the UAW to commit to "round-the-clock bargaining."

But in a letter of his own, United Auto Workers Vice President Terry Dittes wrote that there won't be a response to Monday's offer until committees working on issues are finished. He didn't know how long that would take.

Details of the Wednesday meeting between Barra and top union bargainers were disclosed in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press. It's an indication that there won't be a quick end to the nearly monthlong strike by 49,000 workers that has halted production at all of GM's U.S. factories.

Both sides are separated on major economic issues such as wages and lump-sum payments and better pensions that will be bargained at the "main table" by top negotiators.

Committees are working on issues such as products for factories that GM wants to close, investments in other U.S. factories, and training for union workers to handle future technology, according to Dittes' letter. They're also haggling over company-paid legal services for union members and the future of a joint UAW-GM training center in Detroit, the letter said.

But the company, in a Thursday letter to Dittes, said that GM expected the union to move more quickly and respond to the larger offer before the committee work is done.

"At the meeting, Mary Barra emphasized the need to get a comprehensive response from the union as soon as possible," wrote Scott Sandefur, GM's top bargainer.

Dittes wrote that when the committees finish, the union will turn in a comprehensive proposal in response to the company's offer.

"The completion of those committees is not known at this point," Dittes wrote, adding that committees have been meeting since 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Share This Photo X