Last week, GM announced that it was shifting health insurance costs for striking workers to the United Auto Workers union during the ongoing GM-UAW strike, placing additional pressure on UAW strike funds. The reversal of that decision indicates progress in talks between the union and GM as the two groups work to put together a new labor contract following the expiration of the previous contract September 14th.
“Given the confusion around what was happening, we chose to work with our providers to ensure that the benefits would remain fully in place,” said GM spokesman Jim Cain.
Due to the highly intricate nature of health care coverage, GM said that UAW members’ coverage never actually lapsed, despite the fact GM announced it was pulling coverage mere days after the GM-UAW strike began.
Health care coverage is seen as one of the major sticking points in negotiations between GM and the UAW. It’s estimated that GM workers pay just 3 percent of health expenses, far below the 28 percent paid by the average U.S. worker.
GM’s move to pull health coverage last week was roundly criticized by union members and union leadership, as well as Democratic presidential candidates who visited the picket lines.
“There is no doubt that public sentiment sees these actions of GM as a shameful act,” said UAW vice president, Terry Dittes, in an open letter to GM on Thursday.
It’s estimated that GM allocates $1 billion annually in healthcare coverage for hourly workers.
The GM-UAW strike is currently the longest nationwide autoworker walkout in 30 years. Some analysts predict the strike could cost GM upwards of $100 million a day.
Negotiations between the UAW and GM are still ongoing, with recent reports indicating that committees have handed the reins over to top bargainers as of yesterday.