End in sight? GM CEO Barra joins talks with strik­ing union

The Korea Times - - WORLD BUSINESS -

DE­TROIT (AP) — Gen­eral Mo­tors CEO Mary Barra joined ne­go­tia­tors at the bar­gain­ing ta­ble, an indi­ca­tion that a deal may be near to end a month­long strike by the United Auto Work­ers union that has par­a­lyzed the com­pany’s fac­to­ries.

Barra and GM Pres­i­dent Mark Reuss were in the bar­gain­ing room early Tues­day, a per­son briefed on the talks said, but they left later in the morn­ing as com­mit­tees be­gan work on spe­cific con­tract lan­guage. The per­son didn’t want to be iden­ti­fied be­cause the talks are con­fi­den­tial.

The ap­pear­ance of two key ex­ec­u­tives is a strong sign that bar­gain­ers are clos­ing in on a con­tract agree­ment that would end the strike, which be­gan on Sept. 16.

An­other per­son briefed on the talks said the only is­sues that re­main are faster pay in­creases for work­ers hired af­ter 2007, ap­pren­tice­ships for skilled trades work­ers, and the specifics of wind­ing down a joint union-com­pany train­ing cen­ter. The per­son also didn’t want to be iden­ti­fied be­cause the talks are on­go­ing.

The union has sum­moned its na­tional coun­cil of fac­tory-level lead­ers to De­troit for a meet­ing Thurs­day billed as an up­date on con­tract talks. The group could be as­sem­bling to vote on a ten­ta­tive agree­ment. It also will de­cide if work­ers should re­turn to their jobs be­fore or af­ter they vote on the deal.

“I don’t think Mary Barra would have re­turned un­less they were mak­ing progress,” said Art Wheaton, an auto in­dus­try ex­pert at the Worker In­sti­tute at Cor­nell Univer­sity. “And I don’t think they’d have told ev­ery­body to re­turn to De­troit on Thurs­day.”

The strike, now in its 30th day, is the long­est against an au­tomaker since a 54-day strike in 1998 in Flint, Michi­gan. That strike cost GM $2 bil­lion. The union also went on a brief two-day strike against Gen­eral Mo­tors in 2007.

Both sides are un­der pres­sure to end the walk­out, which has cost GM close to $2 bil­lion in prof­its and forced work­ers to live on $250 per week, about one fifth of their base pay. Last week, with the strike drag­ging on, the union said it would in­crease strike pay to $275 per week.

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