UAW, GM Reach Tentative Agreement

By Justin Hyde
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, Sept. 28, 1999; 11:10 p.m. EDT

DETROIT. The United Auto Workers reached tentative agreements with General Motors Corp. and its former parts division Tuesday on contracts covering about 185,000 workers.

The terms of the union's deals with GM and Delphi Automotive Systems Corp. were not released. The UAW said the terms would not be announced until after ratification votes. No date was set.

The deals follow a lucrative four-year contract the UAW negotiated with DaimlerChrysler AG. And it leaves Ford Motor Co. as the only automaker still to finish a contract with the UAW.

The DaimlerChrysler deal was a four-year pact with 3 percent raises each year, a $1,350 signing bonus and improvements in pensions. The UAW traditionally negotiates the same basic terms for all contracts.

The deal came after two days of intensive talks involving UAW President Stephen P. Yokich and GM Chairman Jack Smith.

The UAW represents about 143,000 workers at GM, about 80,000 fewer than it did in 1990. The job losses have come from GM closing factories, using fewer workers on assembly lines, relying on suppliers for more work and not replacing workers as fast as they retire.

GM has been working on improving relations with the UAW after last summer's 54-day strike at two Flint parts factories. The strike virtually shut down the automaker's North American production, costing GM about $2 billion in lost revenue and a chunk of market share it has yet to recover.

The strikes were largely over plant work rules and the loss of work to outside suppliers, issues certain to be back on the table in these talks. GM has said it needs to be more flexible and efficient to compete.

The union also represents 42,000 UAW employees at the Delphi parts unit that GM has spun off into a separate company. GM said Delphi could be more profitable and compete better if it went after business from other automakers û something it couldn't do as a division of GM.

Consequently, the UAW has made protecting jobs a major goal. The DaimlerChrysler contract includes clauses aimed at keeping job levels near current totals.

In addition to wage improvements, the DaimlerChrysler contract also improves pensions û an important goal for the UAW's older workforce. The average GM worker is 48 years old, and some 32,000 workers have 30 years of experience.

Talks at Ford were continuing at a lower level this week. The UAW has said it was very concerned that Ford wanted to spin off its Visteon parts unit as GM did with Delphi.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press