Thursday, September 18, 2003

Auto union still working GM deal

By John Porretto
The Associated Press

DETROIT - The United Auto Workers and General Motors Corp., along with major automotive supplier Delphi Corp., continued work toward new labor contracts Wednesday, more than two days after the previous pacts expired.

UAW president Ron Gettelfinger has said the sides will remain at the bargaining table until new contracts are agreed upon.

The UAW already has reached tentative terms with Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group and supplier Visteon Corp.

"Talks continue" was the only comment from Luce Rubio, a spokeswoman for Delphi, which has 30,000 UAW workers.

GM, the world's largest automaker, has 115,000 active UAW workers and 340,000 retirees and spouses.

Gettelfinger said Monday, when the Chrysler deal was announced, that the contract with the No. 3 U.S. automaker would serve as a model for the others. He reiterated that point late Monday when tentative pacts with Ford and Visteon were announced.

Still, it's not unusual for the union and automakers to encounter stumbling blocks during negotiations on company-specific issues, and analysts say that's likely what's happened with GM and Delphi.

Delphi was spun off from GM in 1999, and the automaker remains its biggest customer. The union has said it would like for GM to continue buying parts from Delphi as opposed to nonunion suppliers. At the same time, GM is under intense pressure to lower operating costs and conduct business as efficiently as possible.

The UAW, Ford and DaimlerChrysler have declined to discuss specifics of the four-year contracts, but two sources say they include a $3,000 signing bonus, a lump-sum payment in the second year and wage increases between 2 percent and 3 percent in the third and fourth years.

The union also managed to avoid any radical changes to its low-cost health care insurance program. Co-payments for brand name prescription drugs are expected to double to $10, while co-pays for generics will remain $5, one source said.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the pacts also include provisions for plant closings or sales.

Workers at DaimlerChrysler's Indianapolis Foundry said managers have told them the company plans to phase out almost 800 jobs over four years.

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