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UAW National GM Council to meet Friday

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

UAW-GM local presidents and shop chairs from across the country have been summoned to a Friday meeting in Detroit for an update on extended skilled trades talks as part of the tentative agreement with the automaker.

The 9:30 a.m. meeting of the UAW National GM Council has been called to “discuss issues relative to the 2015 agreement,” according to a Facebook post.

GM and the union continue to hold discussions on skilled trades issues. Depending on how Friday’s meeting with the national council goes, the union Friday likely will announce the deal has been ratified by the UAW’s International Executive Board — 14 members including UAW officers and regional directors — or that it has reached another ratification deadline extension with GM.

Late last week, the union announced that discussions with GM about skilled trades concerns had been extended through Nov. 20; the original ratification deadline had been Nov. 13.

The one-week extension is rare, and the announcement came a week after voting results were released that showed 55.4 percent of GM’s hourly workers had approved the contract, but a majority of skilled trades workers had rejected the deal.

Both skilled trades and production workers must approve the deal separately for ratification; and 59.5 percent of GM skilled trades workers — or about 16 percent of the company’s 52,600 hourly workers — rejected the deal.

UAW GM Vice President Cindy Estrada in a letter last week told local presidents and shop chairs that while the ratification process had been long and difficult, it was important to address “these important issues raised by the skilled trades.” UAW President Dennis Williams said in a statement Friday that based on the feedback from skilled trades members, he determined further discussion with the automaker was needed.

A review of their concerns found workers had issues pertaining to local contract agreements, reclassification of trades, numbers of apprentices and the absence of cost of living increases and buyouts. GM skilled trades workers also have told The Detroit News that they are concerned re-classifications could require them to do multiple jobs, leading to issues with safety and potential loss of seniority or shift preferences.

The UAW can overrule a rejection by skilled trades workers if its International Executive Board finds the trades voted against the deal for reasons that are not unique to their classification. The UAW has said the results of the review and continued talks regarding skilled trades issues cannot change aspects of the agreement that are common to everyone.

The UAW may be able to win some clarifying language cited in the contract in an addendum or letter that would not require another vote by workers.

GM’s four-year tentative agreement with the union includes 1,300 new skilled trades placements, including at least 400 new apprentices, the first 200 of which would be added next year. It promises retraining for skilled trades working in production.

The delay has caused some tension between production and skilled trades workers, as some production workers want a quick ratification to receive bonuses sooner.

The tentative agreement, reached Oct. 25, includes an $8,000 signing bonus for all workers and $2,000 for temporary workers. Veteran workers will receive two 3 percent wage increases in years one and three of the contract, and two 4 percent lump sum payments in years two and four. It also includes the elimination of the pay gap between veteran workers and newer hires over eight years and entry-level workers would be moved to the same health care plan as veteran workers.

Hourly workers also would receive an annual $1,000 performance bonus and an additional $500 bonus if quality targets are met. GM also plans to invest $1.9 billion at a dozen U.S. facilities, creating or retaining 3,300 jobs.

More than half of the automaker’s 8,500 skilled trades workers are eligible to retire, but skilled trades workers aren’t eligible for a $60,000 early retirement incentive that GM will offer up to 4,000 eligible employees as part of a ratified contract.

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