Today, Friday, November 20th, UAW leadership will meet at 9:30 a.m. at the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources in Detroit to determine whether to ratify the new deal with General Motors Company, or ask for another extension, as it did last week. It has been four months since GM and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union commenced negotiations surrounding a new four-year labor contract for 52,600 hourly plant workers across 40 General Motors plants in the U.S.
A 58 percent majority of workers voted to ratify the labor agreement two weeks ago. However, UAW President Dennis Williams and Vice President Cindy Estrada — who is in charge of the UAW’s GM department — delayed the ratification since November 6th in order to clear up objections brought up by skilled trades workers, who majority voted against the deal.
Skilled trades represent 16 percent of GM’s 52,600 hourly workforce, or roughly 8,500 workers that represent such positions as electricians, millwrights, pipefitters and tool makers. 59.5 percent of them voted no on the deal due to various issues that end up boiling down to the following four:
- Not being offered a $60,000 retirement incentive that 4,000 production workers were. Over half of GM’s skilled trades workers are eligible to retire. If offered the incentive, it could case the majority of eligible workers to do so, causing significant operational problems at GM plants across the U.S.
- Mistrust in GM’s pledge to train 400 new apprentices over the next four years.
- GM’s push for greater flexibility via cross-training among skilled trades workers, and the company’s seeming desire to erase the “lines of demarcation” between what is considered to be a millwright’s job and a machine repairman’s task.
- GM’s continued and, at times, increasing reliance on outside contracts for jobs are often slower and more expensive than in-house workers.
Over the last decade, GM and other automakers have pushed to increase flexibility and cross-training among skilled trades. But in this 2015 contract, GM has been insistent on very assertive language in the area. The contract calls to allow the use of outside contractors and to increase flexibility of workers across their skill levels. At this point, it is unknown whether GM has accepted revisions to the language outlined in the contract.
The Detroit Free Press states that there will not be another vote on the new contract, though it’s possible that the two parties will agree to continue discussions.
The delay to approve the deal has already caused tensions among workers who voted to ratify the contract and those who voted against doing so, since some workers look upon those who voted “no” as being responsible for holding up payment of an $8,000 signing bonus to each of the 52,600 hourly workers until after Thanksgiving and the Black Friday holiday shopping weekend. The holdup has also resulted in the implementation of hourly wage raises. However, GM and the UAW have both confirmed that workers will receive retroactive compensation caused by the delay.
Stay tuned to GM Authority as we follow this developing story.