General Motors and the UAW are closer to reaching a deal and may soon put an end to the three-week-long walkout, though some key issues have still yet to be resolved.
The UAW released a statement Friday indicating that the two entities have “made good progress regarding the issues of health care and a path for temporary employees becoming seniority members,” but added that some issues remain unsettled including “wages, job security, skilled trades and pension.”
“The staff and your elected Bargaining Committee from both hourly and salary have been working long hours and aggressively addressing your needs. We will continue to work over the weekend in an attempt to reach a Tentative Agreement on behalf of you and your families,” the statement said.
While discussions appear to progressing, union members would still have to vote to ratify the agreed-upon contract. Workers can return to work once the contract is proposed, but they may also decide to remain on strike until the vote is complete. The decision to return to work or remain striking during the ratification vote is up to UAW leaders.
According to Bloomberg, GM wants to give workers 2% raises in two of the contract’s four years, along with 2% lump-sum payments in the other two years. UAW members, however, want 4% raises and 4% lump sums in the same time intervals. The UAW also wants GM to offer a clear path to full-time employment for temporary workers after they have been with the company for three years. GM allegedly wants to rely more on temp workers going forward.
The industry’s planned shift toward electric vehicles may be complicating the matter. Not only will the forthcoming crop of EVs from GM, Ford and FCA require increased investment, battery electric vehicles use less parts (many do not have traditional multi-gear transmissions, for example) which could lead to the American Big Three downsizing their respective workforces.
“There’s a potential for our jobs to be gone — they don’t need us anymore,” Tim Walbolt, president of a UAW local representing workers at an FCA transmission plant in Ohio told Automotive News in a recent interview. “It scares us.”
EVs also bring about a certain degree of uncertainty. GM is planning to make major investments in the technology, but if consumers don’t flock to such products like it is hoping they will, such ventures could prove to be financially disastrous. A pricey contract with the UAW would compound the problem, so GM may want to protect itself against such a scenario with a favorable deal.
“Electric, to me, is where the real risk is to our membership,” Jennifer Kelly, UAW research director, told Automotive News earlier this year.