GM-UAW contract wins big OK Accord favored by 85% nationally, even more locally

November 19, 1996|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Like their co-workers in Baltimore, union workers at General NTC

Motors Corp. plants around the country voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new national contract, the United Auto Workers announced yesterday.

The three-year contract, covering such issues as wages, job security and fringe benefits, was ratified by 85 percent of GM's hourly and skilled trades workers. It was the widest approval margin of a national contract in more than a dozen years.

More than 90 percent of the workers at GM's van plant in Baltimore voted in favor of the agreement Sunday.

Looking back on the five months of negotiations between GM and the UAW, Dale Brickner, associate director of the Michigan State School of Labor and Industrial Relations, said, "it was a win-win situation."

He said the union is able to boast to its members that it protected 95 percent of its current jobs. At the same time, he said, it looks as if General Motors will be free to cut its work force by about 30,000 workers over the life the contract.

Referring to the 85 percent approval rate, Stephen P. Yokich, UAW president, said: "Our members at General Motors are clearly pleased with the terms of the new contract."

From GM's side, company spokesman Charles Licari said the agreement "gives us the flexibility to be more competitive in the future. It allows us to implement our business plan."

David Healy, an auto analyst who follows GM for Burnham Securities Inc., called the contract a compromise. "Neither side got everything it wanted," he said.

"The union wanted strict limits on outsourcing, an industry term used to describe the company's purchase of parts from outside suppliers, and employment guarantees," Healy said. "The company wanted free hands in both areas."

Healy said that in reality, with all the exceptions for plant closings and sales, the 95 percent guarantee "is probably more like an 85 percent job guarantee."

The ratification marks the end of a five-month contentious bargaining season for GM and its unions in the United States and Canada.

The final say

The world's largest automaker will take a $700 million charge against fourth-quarter earnings because of October's strike by the Canadian Auto Workers and two local UAW strikes that stretched into November.

On the key issue of outsourcing, Brickner said it will be harder for GM to purchase from outside suppliers. He said GM will have to negotiate with the union on each item it wants to purchase from the outside. The union will have the right to try to match the price offered by the outside supplier.

"But when push comes to shove," Brickner said, "GM still have the final say on outsourcing."

According to Yokich, the contract will be worth more than $13,900 to a typical assembly line worker over the life of the agreement.

It includes a $2,000 lump-sum payment the first year, 3 percent wage increases the second and third years, cost-of-living adjustments and shift premiums.

Pub Date: 11/19/96

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