Throughout the course of this week, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union has been holding meetings with skilled trades members across General Motors plants to pinpoint the exact issues the workers have with the new GM-UAW labor contract. The step is part of UAW’s official process given that skilled trades workers have majority voted against the new tentative GM-UAW labor deal, thereby delaying its ratification
Some of the issues skilled trades have with the tentative agreement pertain to local contract agreements, while other issues have to do with problems with the overall agreement, such as the lack of early retirement offers/buyouts for skilled trades workers and no cost of living increases, according to two sources familiar with a call held by UAW leadership on Thursday, November 12th, as reported by The Detroit News. The sources also stated that the skilled trades also had issues specific to their positions, such as reclassifying trades and the number of apprentices.
Purpose Of Investigation
The UAW said that the purpose of the investigation is to determine “what reason(s) they [skilled trades workers] had for rejection of the tentative agreement. Once that inquiry has concluded, the UAW’s International Executive Board shall meet to determine what appropriate steps shall be taken.”
Overall Majority Approves, Skilled Trades Do Not
Last Friday, the UAW announced that 55.4 percent GM hourly workers voted to approve the new labor contract, which contains a signing bonus and the first raises in years, among the other new benefits. But of the 55.4 percent of overall hourly workers who approved the deal, a 59.5 percent majority of skilled trades workers voted against the new agreement, thereby holding up the immediate ratification of the new pact.
Skilled trades workers represent roughly 16 percent of GM’s hourly workforce, or about 8,500 individuals. The new deal cumulativy affects roughly 52,700 GM-UAW workers.
Both skilled trades and production workers must vote to approve the deal separately for it to be ratified. The new contract has individual parts specific to both classifications.
UAW Board Can Overrule Rejection
If the UAW’s executive board finds that skilled trades workers voted against the deal for reasons that are mostly economic and not unique to their classification, it can overrule the rejection. The union stated that results of the investigation of skilled trades workers’ issues cannot change aspects of the agreement that are common to all members.
Strike Unlikely, More Bargaining Possible
A likely outcome is for the union and GM to return to the bargaining table to focus specifically to trades issues. A strike is widely seen as unlikely.
Quick Facts Of 2015 GM-UAW Deal
- Workers hired before 2007 would receive 3 percent raises in the first and third years of the contract and 4 percent lump-sum bonuses in the second and fourth years of the agreement.
- Lump-sum payments would be four percent of annual pay, the same as FCA. It’s likely that GM workers wanted this number to be greater given GM’s larger size and profitably.
- All hourly employees get a signing bonus of as much as $8,000, higher than rival FCA, whose hourly workers get a $4,000 signing bonus.
- GM workers would keep the outgoing contract’s profit sharing structure of $1,000 per $1 billion in GM North American profit. Some outlets have reported the bonus structure as being of “$1,000 and an additional $500 bonus when quality metrics are reached”.
- To note, GM paid an average of $9,000 to the average UAW member in profit sharing in 2015 alone, according to the Center for Automotive Research.
- Up to 4,000 eligible employees would be offered a $60,000 early retirement incentive.
- The pay gap between veteran workers and new hires will gradually be eliminated, thereby allowing entry-level, or two-tier workers to reach a top wage of about $29 an hour in eight years. For instance, entry level production workers currently paid between $15.78 and $19.28 per hour would see their wages increase to between $17 and $22.50 per hour and would eventually earn about $29 per hour.
- One of the most controversial aspects of the proposed agreement is to pay workers at GM Components Holdings a lower pay rate than other workers. A group of about 3,400 hourly workers at several GM parts plants with one to four years of seniority would be paid $16.25 to $19.86.
- GM will invest $1.9 billion in U.S. facilities, creating or retaining 3,300 jobs at 12 plants.