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“Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” for UAW

Union leaders release formal GM contract details.

by on Sep.20, 2011

GM CEO Dan Akerson and UAW President Bob King shaking hands at the start of the latest round of contract talks, in July.

It was all about “jobs, jobs, jobs” for United Auto Workers Union negotiators as they hammered out their new 4-year contract with General Motors, union leaders said today as they revealed the specific details of the settlement.

But the agreement also contains some significant economic improvements – especially for newly-hired “second-tier” employees who have been earning about half as much as veteran GM workers.

The new contract now goes to a vote by GM’s 64,000 U.S. hourly employees – even as union bargainers resume pick up talks with Chrysler and Ford Motor Co.

“The basis that we went into the agreement with was jobs, jobs, jobs and I think that is what we came out of this agreement with,” said UAW Vice President Joe Ashton.

As first reported over the weekend, under the new contract, GM has agreed to add new products at four plants in Michigan, Tennessee and Missouri.  That should result in the addition of 6,400 UAW jobs.

And, by agreeing to steps that will further enhance GM’s productivity, additional jobs could be created, as well, according to union and company sources.

On the financial side, the UAW won workers a $5,000 signing bonus.  And while the old cost-of-living allowances were not revived there is the potential for up to $4,000 in “inflation protection” during the life of the agreement.

Significantly, the UAW’s profit-sharing formula was enhanced and would have earned each worker $5,000 for 2010, up from the actual $4,300 payout.

One of the toughest battles for bargainers was over the two-tier wage structure long opposed by the UAW but approved as part of a raft of concessions in 2007.  Entry-level workers currently earn between $14 and $16 in wages and benefits.  Over the life of the 4-year contract that will be increased by $3 an hour.  And second-tier workers will get improved medical care, as well.

“Getting that wage up over $19 an hour was very important to us,” said Ashton.

Some workers are still expressing frustration that the two-tier system wasn’t eliminated entirely, but that is not expected to scuttle the ratification vote on the new GM contract, which is expected to stretch out over the next 10 days.

Even before then the union will resume bargaining with Detroit’s other two automakers, said UAW President Bob King, though he said the union has yet to decide which will be the initial focus as Auto Workers aim to finish this year’s negotiations.