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U.A.W. Strike Called Off

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The U.A.W. states:

“We’re proud of this tentative agreement and we look forward to getting into the field and discussing it with our membership,” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said.

The UAW International Executive Board and the UAW GM National Negotiating Committee — made up of elected representatives from UAW GM locations throughout the country — have unanimously recommended ratification of the agreement.

“We reached this agreement because of the extraordinary solidarity of our membership, and through a tremendous amount of hard work by the committee they elected to negotiate a new contract,” said UAW Vice President Cal Rapson, director of the union’s GM Department.

Details of the agreement are being withheld pending ratification.

One of the main agreements to this tentative deal, according to the New York Times, is:

The contract’s main feature — a health care trust called a voluntary employee benefit association, or VEBA — means that G.M. will no longer have to carry the debt it will owe for employee and retiree health care benefits on its books. Earlier this year, G.M.’s chief executive, Rick Wagoner, referred to those obligations as “very large and frankly formidable.”

That debt is estimated at $55 billion for the next 80 years. So G.M. will establish the trust with about 70 percent of that amount, making an upfront payment of cash, stock and other assets. The difference is expected to come from gains on investments by the trust.

In return, the union won guarantees that medical benefits for hourly workers and retirees and their families will remain in place for the next two years. G.M. will also invest money in its American plants, and will maintain its current union work force of 73,000, according to Ron Gettelfinger, the U.A.W. president.

According to the Detroit Free Press many of the workers were happy the strike was called off:

“It sounds good that this might be over with. We’re happy with that,” said Matt Cauley, 46, of Saline, a 28-year GM employee.

The workers said they believe the strike worked in their favor and showed the company how much they valued their jobs. Retirement benefits and job security were issues they hoped to learn more about in the new contract.

Gettelfinger said he believed active and retired union members would be surprisingly pleased with the agreement.

“We feel very good about this tentative agreement,” Gettelfinger said. ” We feel very comfortable it will be ratified.”

The UAW plans to call its national council of local leaders to Detroit by Thursday afternoon or Friday morning to vote on the agreement. At that meeting, Gettelfinger and his negotiating team will share highlights of the deal with its leaders and they will vote on it. Should they approve it, the union will proceed with seeking ratification from its members this weekend.

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