Crucial Vote Moves UAW-GM Pact Closer to Ratification

DETROIT (Detroit Free Press/TNS) -

The UAW’s agreement with General Motors had moved closer to ratification Thursday after 58 percent of workers at a Fort Wayne, Ind., truck plant voted in favor of the deal.

With that vote taken, more than half the union’s GM workers had voted on the agreement.

The largest locals that have completed voting are at assembly plants near Lansing, Mich., and Lordstown, Ohio, as well as a stamping plant in Marion, Ind.

The Fort Wayne vote was seen as crucial because it came a day after workers at another large truck plant in Wentzville, Mo., near St. Louis, approved the four-year contract, with about 57 percent of 3,500 workers voting for the deal. Late Wednesday, about 54 percent of 1,300 workers at UAW Local 22, which represents workers at a Detroit-area assembly plant, approved the contract.

Early Thursday morning, Local 163, which represents about 220 workers at GM’s Romulus, Mich., engine plant, reported members approved the deal by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin.

Pockets of resistance, however, remain.

Late Wednesday night, Local 1005 at GM’s metal center in Parma, Ohio, posted results showing 53 percent of its 1,045 voting members cast no votes.

A familiar pattern has developed at most locations. Production workers have backed the agreement, but most skilled tradespeople have not.

If the agreement is ratified, about 57,200 GM hourly workers would receive $8,000 signing bonuses and raises. Entry-level production workers currently paid between $15.78 and $19.28 per hour would see their wages increase to between $17 and $22.50 per hour and would eventually earn about $29 per hour in three to six years, depending on their hire date.

The so-called second-tier workers also would get the same health-care coverage as “traditional” workers hired before October 2007. That coverage has no deductible and extensive benefit coverage.

The “traditional” workers would receive 3 percent raises in the first and third years of the contract and 4 percent lump-sum bonuses in the second and fourth years of the agreement.

Two factors are contributing to opposition by skilled tradespeople. First, they are not eligible for a $60,000 retirement incentive that will be offered to up to 4,000 production workers.

Their second concern is that the contract calls for changes in the range of jobs skilled tradespeople perform. GM and other automakers have reduced the number of skilled trades categories over the last several contracts, and that trend will continue.

There are between three and four production workers for every skilled trades job, and a majority of production workers are voting yes.

There are also concerns among thousands of temporary, or “flex,” workers, who would receive a $2,000 signing bonus and less generous health care than their permanent co-workers, if the contract is ratified. Some of them aren’t convinced that they will have a path to permanent status. Temporary workers can vote on the agreement.