UAW VP pushes for ratification of GM contract – The Detroit News
The head of the UAW’s General Motors department is pushing for ratification of the tentative agreement approved by a majority of General Motors Co. hourly workers, following meetings held with skilled trades workers across the country, according to three sources familiar with the union’s plans.
UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who heads the GM department for the union, held a conference call Thursday morning with UAW-GM local leadership to discuss the review of why skilled trades rejected the contract and said she will recommend that UAW President Dennis Williams and the union’s International Executive Board ratify the agreement, according to three people who asked not to be identified because details have not been made public.
Two other people familiar with the plans say a conference call with the union’s International Executive Board was scheduled for Thursday.
The review found that skilled trades had issues pertaining to local contract agreements, as well as issues in the tentative agreement such as no buyouts for skilled trades workers and no cost of living increase, according to two sources familiar with the call. They said there were also skilled trades-specific issues such as reclassifying trades and the number of apprentices.
Estrada told leadership she planned to meet with GM to try to address specific skilled trades workers issues and clarify some of the language in the contract, according to two sources. The union was able to secure letters of clarification from GM over the past few days on what the company meant by some language in the contract that had worried some skilled trades workers, according to two people who asked not to be identified but listened to the call.
The UAW announced late Friday that GM union members overall supported the tentative agreement, with 55.4 percent voting for it. But it could not be ratified immediately because 59.5 percent of skilled trades workers opposed the pact. The agreement would cover about 52,600 hourly workers. Ratification has been delayed because the skilled trades group — representing about 16 percent of GM’s hourly workforce — voted against the deal.
Both skilled trades and production workers must ratify the deal separately for ratification. Each group has parts of the contract tailored to their classifications. The UAW can overrule a rejection by skilled trades workers if the union finds they voted against it for reasons that are mostly economic and not unique to skilled trades.
The union has been investigating reasons behind the rejection to figure out its next move. Outcomes expected include either ratification or returning to the bargaining table to focus specifically on skilled trades issues. A strike against the automaker is unlikely.
A spokesman for the UAW declined to comment Thursday. As of late Wednesday, the UAW had not scheduled a meeting for the union’s International Executive Board.
The UAW said Friday it had not ratified GM’s agreement even though a majority of GM hourly workers overall supported it. The union said it would hold meetings with skilled trades members at each plant to determine “what reason(s) they had for rejection of the tentative agreement. Once that inquiry has concluded, the UAW’s International Executive Board shall meet to determine what appropriate steps shall be taken.”
The UAW said then that results of the process with the skilled trades workers cannot change aspects of the agreement which are common to all members.
Several workers and local union leaders have told The Detroit News that skilled trades workers are concerned over reclassifications of skilled trades that could require them to do multiple jobs; that they may lose seniority or shift preferences; that work may be outsourced; and that no buyout incentives were offered to skilled trades workers. Others believe not enough apprentices are promised, despite the fact that more than half of the 8,500 workers are eligible to retire.
Johnny Pruitte, president of UAW Local 276 which represents hourly workers including 274 skilled trades workers at GM’s Arlington Assembly Plant in Texas, said skilled trades workers have expressed concerns around language for training, concern GM is trying to end their craft and may outsource work and lack of early retirement incentives in the contract.
Another big concern among his membership is the lack of apprentices and the fact GM has not added many in recent years.
“They now find themselves in a predicament,” he said.
More than half of GM’s 8,500 skilled trades workers are eligible to retire and at the Arlington plant, 59 percent of skilled trades workers have 30 years or more of service and could elect to retire at any point.
“They could walk right out the door,” Pruitte, a skilled trades electrician, said in an interview Wednesday. “It would just shut this operation down.”
Pruitte said GM likely did not offer a retirement incentive to skilled trades in this contract because so many people could retire, which could lead to major operational issues at some plants.
The GM agreement will be effective Monday as long as GM is notified by Friday that the contract was ratified. It includes the first hourly wage increase in nearly a decade for veteran workers. An $8,000 signing bonus for all workers and $2,000 for temporary workers with at least 90 days with the company prior to the effective date of the agreement will be paid in the second pay period following the company receiving in writing that the agreement has been ratified, according to the contract.
The deal includes the first hourly wage increase in nearly a decade for veteran workers who 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 gradual elimination of the pay gap between veteran workers and newer hires over eight years.
GM’s hourly workers also will receive retroactive pay for wage increases since Sept. 15, according to the contract. It was not immediately clear when workers would receive the retroactive pay.
It also would move entry-level workers to the same health care plan as veteran workers in January, award workers an annual $1,000 performance bonus and an additional $500 bonus if quality targets are met, and offer up to 4,000 eligible employees a $60,000 early retirement bonus. GM’s deal includes $1.9 billion of investment at 12 U.S. facilities, creating or retaining 3,300 jobs at a dozen plants through 2019.