GM work­ers rat­ify con­tract; 40-day strike ends

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Business - By TOM KRISHER AP Auto Writer

ROMULUS, Mich. — A con­tentious 40day strike that crip­pled Gen­eral Mo­tors’ U.S. pro­duc­tion came to an end Fri­day as work­ers ap­proved a new con­tract with the com­pany.

The four-year deal will now be used as a tem­plate in bar­gain­ing with crosstown ri­val Ford Mo­tor Co., the union’s choice for the next round of bar­gain­ing, fol­lowed by Fiat Chrysler.

GM work­ers voted 57.2% in fa­vor of the pact, pass­ing it with a vote of 23,389 to 17,501, the union said in a state­ment.

Picket lines came down al­most im­me­di­ately after the vote was an­nounced, and some of the 49,000 strik­ing work­ers were ex­pected to re­turn to their jobs as early as Fri­day night. Some skilled trades em­ploy­ees such as elec­tri­cians and ma­chin­ists were to en­ter the plants to get machin­ery restarted in prepa­ra­tion for pro­duc­tion work­ers to re­turn as early as Satur­day.

“It was a good va­ca­tion, but I guess I’ve got to go back,” joked Paul Daru, a 42-year worker at GM’s en­gine and trans­mis­sion plant in Romulus, Michi­gan, near Detroit. “I miss the so­cial­iz­ing and stuff like that, see­ing the guys, go­ing out on the job and fig­ur­ing out what the prob­lem is.”

Al­though work­ers at his fac­tory ap­proved the deal, Daru said he voted against it be­cause it still has sev­eral dif­fer­ent pay scales for work­ers do­ing the same jobs. “Some­body who is work­ing next to you for 17 bucks per hour, you’re do­ing the same thing,” said Daru, an elec­tri­cian who may go back to work Satur­day.

Tem­po­rary work­ers can get per­ma­nent jobs after two or three years de­pend­ing on their start dates, but they start at the bot­tom of a pay scale, so peo­ple do­ing the same work can end up at dif­fer­ent pay rates.

The deal also in­cludes a mix of wage in­creases and lump-sum pay­ments and an $11,000 sign­ing bonus. But it al­lows GM to close three U.S. fac­to­ries, a point of con­tention for many of the 42.8% of work­ers who voted no.

The five-week walk­out was big enough to help push down Septem­ber U.S. durable goods or­ders by 1.1%, the largest drop in four months.

“We de­liv­ered a con­tract that rec­og­nizes our em­ploy­ees for the im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tions they make to the over­all suc­cess of the com­pany, with a strong wage and ben­e­fit pack­age and ad­di­tional in­vest­ment and job growth in our U.S. op­er­a­tions,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a state­ment.

Tri­cia Pruitt, an­other worker in Romulus, said the wage gains were worth stay­ing off the job for more than five weeks, but she’s ready to re­turn to work.

Pruitt, a 15-year GM em­ployee, was happy that the con­tract brings work­ers hired after 2007 up to the same wage as older work­ers in four years.

Al­though GM deal­ers had stocked up on ve­hi­cles be­fore the strike and many still have de­cent sup­plies, an­a­lysts say GM won’t be able to make up for the lost pro­duc­tion. Had the strike been shorter, GM could have in­creased assem­bly line speeds and worked the plants on over­time to catch up and re­fill its stock. But many of the plants that make pop­u­lar SUVs and pickup trucks al­ready were work­ing around the clock to keep up with de­mand be­fore the strike be­gan.

Also, com­pa­nies that sup­ply parts to the fac­to­ries and halted pro­duc­tion dur­ing the strike will need time to restart, al­though GM has some parts in stock.

Jake May/MLive.com/The Flint Jour­nal via AP

Al­ter­nate Com­mit­tee Rep. Stan­ley Du­laney, Jr., 34, of Flint, Michi­gan, and a 13-year em­ployee at the Flint Assem­bly Plant, wipes away tears Fri­day as he is emo­tion­ally over­come as the United Auto Work­ers strike against Gen­eral Mo­tors comes to a close out­side of the Flint Assem­bly Plant.

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