The Price of Progress: GM and UAW Inch Closer to a Deal As Strike Disrupts Operations Across North America

The first strike action by unionized General Motors workers since before the recession has entered its fifth day, with bargaining teams from both sides claiming progress on a number of issues. That said, reaching a tentative deal reached before the weekend is a long shot.

With American GM plants free of workers, the shutdown of the automaker’s manufacturing landscape has sent shock waves across the border and into Canada, where many workers are now “enjoying” a unexpected late-summer vacation.

According to Automotive News, both sides spent Thursday in talks and planned to resume negotiations on Friday. Already, the strike has lasted more than twice as long as the 2007 strike. It didn’t go unnoticed by some workers.

“It’s already twice as long. That one we went out, and a couple days later, we were back. This one, it’s hard to say,” said Bill Duford, a UAW member picketing outside GM’s Romulus, Mich., transmission plant on Thursday. This time around, things are “completely different,” he added.

In a letter to members, Terry Dittes, vice president in charge of the UAW’s GM department, said the union has been working overtime to ensure negotiations ultimately land in their members’ favor. “The process of meeting in subcommittees and main tables will continue this weekend and beyond, if a Tentative Agreement is not reached,” he wrote.

As we told you yesterday, the idling of so many GM plants in the U.S. has forced some Canadian operations to throw in the towel. Some 1,200 or more workers were temporarily laid off at GM Canada’s Oshawa, Ontario assembly plant earlier this week. Several hundred workers at GM’s St. Catharines, Ontario propulsion plant are expected to receive pink slips on Friday.

Despite some progress in the talks, there are agreements yet to be reached between the two sides. GM angered the UAW before talks broke off by making an offer in which workers would pay considerably more for their health care costs. It quickly retracted the offer, but other issues remain. One of those sticking points seems to be Mexico.

Speaking to FOX Business, UAW picket captain Moshee Edwards said, “I would like to see more cars built here in America because it doesn’t just affect us, it affects our communities outside of this plant as well. There are so many smaller communities, so many businesses that rely on us.”

Lingering resentment remains from GM’s decision to build the new Chevrolet Blazer in a Mexican facility, rather than earmark its production for an underutilized American plant. This move even earned GM a short-lived boycott on Mexican-made vehicles from Canadian Detroit Three autoworker union Unifor.

These issues, as well as those relating to wages, lump-sum pay, and temporary worker benefits, will continue plaguing negotiating teams on both sides. In the meantime, GM is losing $50 million to $90 million per day as the strike drags on, depending on which analyst you speak to.

shared from TTAC

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