UAW Members Back at General Dynamics Jobs

Associated Press

Most unionized tank builders returned to the job at General Dynamics plants in three states Wednesday after voting to end a seven-week strike that idled 5,000 workers. But about 10% of the employees will not be recalled until the giant defense contractor reaches full production during the next few weeks, company spokesman William Sheil said.

"As various assembly-line tasks are phased back into the manufacturing process, those employees not currently working will be recalled," Sheil said.

General Dynamics is the sole supplier of the Army's M1 and M1A battle tanks.

Sheil said the company met Army orders for tanks in September, but management and non-union personnel built only 31 tanks in October, falling short of the 70 tanks built monthly on average.

'Catch-Up From Here On'

"It's catch-up from here on out," Sheil said of production. He said he had no estimate of how much money the strike had cost the company.

United Auto Workers members voted 2,227 to 1,943 Tuesday in favor of the pact, a slim 53% to 47% margin.

Hourly employees began reporting to work Tuesday night after the ratification vote on the three-year pact. Sheil said there were some scattered no-shows but said the number was not significant.

UAW Vice President Marc Stepp said three of the four union locals voting on the pact approved it. Union officials said the contract was rejected by 80% of the members who voted at the 1,600-member Local 1200 in Warren, Mich.

The vote was "a very strong indication that the members did not want this agreement," said Local 1200 President James Coakley, who led the opposition to two earlier tentative pacts that were rejected.

The strike affected plants in the Detroit suburbs of Warren, Center Line and Sterling Heights and in Lima, Ohio, and Scranton, Pa.

Local 1200 President James Coakley said union bargainers failed to meet a primary goal of wage parity with employees of Chrysler Corp., which sold the tank plants to General Dynamics in 1982.

Similar to Chrysler Pact

Stepp, who also led the UAW side in talks that concluded with a new three-year contract with Chrysler last month and ended a nationwide walkout by 70,000 workers, said he was pleased with the General Dynamics agreement.

Although the wage formula was the same as the Chrysler pact, Stepp acknowledged that General Dynamics workers would get less money if the contracts are compared "penny for penny."

The pact boosts wages by 2.25% in the first year, provides a 2.25% lump-sum payment in the second year and a 3% increase in the contract's final year.

The agreement is effective retroactive to June 3, Stepp said. Pay raises are effective immediately, and a $2,000 bonus for each of the workers includes pay retroactive to the starting date of the pact, which expires June 15, 1988. UAW workers at General Dynamics were making between $7.49 and $11.50 an hour, he said.

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