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GM-UAW talks take a turn for the worse; settlement is not near

GM worker John Kirk, right, and other picketers in Parma, Ohio
John Kirk, right, a 20-year GM employee, pickets with coworkers on Friday outside the plant in Parma, Ohio.
(Tony Dejak / Associated Press)

Contract talks aimed at ending a 21-day strike by the United Auto Workers against General Motors have taken a turn for the worse, hitting a big snag over product commitments for U.S. factories, a union official wrote in an email to members.

The letter from UAW Vice President Terry Dittes casts doubt on whether there will be a quick settlement in the contract dispute, which sent 49,000 workers to the picket lines on Sept. 16, crippling GM’s factories.

Dittes’ letter said the union presented a proposal to the company Saturday. He said GM responded Sunday morning by reverting back to an offer that had been rejected and made few changes.

The company’s proposal did nothing to address a host of items, Dittes wrote, specifying job security for members during the term of the four-year contract.

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Normally in contract talks, the union bargains for commitments from the company to build new vehicles, engines, transmissions and other items at U.S. factories represented by the union.

“It did nothing to provide job security during the term of this agreement,” Dittes wrote. “We, in this union, could not be more disappointed with General Motors who refuse to recognize the experience and talent of our membership.”

In a statement, GM said it continued to negotiate in good faith “with very good proposals that benefit employees today and builds a stronger future for all of us.”

The company says it is committed to talking around the clock to resolve the dispute.

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But Dittes wrote that although both sides had made progress on important issues two days ago, the talks now “have taken a turn for the worse.”

A person briefed on the talks said Sunday that the union voiced concerns about GM increasing production in Mexico, where it now builds pickup trucks, small cars and two SUVs. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private, said both sides were far apart on guarantees of new products in U.S. factories.

GM’s U.S. factories have been shut down since the workers walked out Sept. 16. Parts shortages also have forced the company to close plants in Mexico and Canada.


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