A resolution to the United Auto Workers’ strike against General Motor Co. once again proved elusive over the weekend as the walkout by 48,000 GM employees entered its fourth week.
Terry Dittes, the chief bargainer for the UAW, expressed optimism Oct. 4, noting that the two sides had reached broad agreement on a number of vital issues even though key differences remained about wages and skilled trades.
But the talks quickly bogged down the next day as two sides clashed and GM’s negotiators rejected a series of union proposals, leaving the talks deadlocked and prompting an icy response from Dittes, who accused the company of a lack of professionalism.
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“On Saturday, October 5, 2019, the union presented an extensive proposal package at 5:35 p.m.
“The package addressed a minimum of (35) hourly proposals that three salaried proposals. Our extensive package was an effort to move this set of negotiations to the next step to reach a Tentative Agreement,” Dittes said in a letter to Scott Sandefur, GM vice president of labor relations for North America and one of the company’s top bargainers.
“During your response to our proposal delivered at 9:05 a.m. today, Sunday, October 6, 2019, you didn’t even have the professional courtesy to explain why you could not accept or why you rejected our package proposal we presented yesterday. The law and basic decency require no less,” Dittes said in his terse letter.
GM, meanwhile, fell back on language that it has used to cover the company’s position since the strike began on Sept. 16.
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“We continue to negotiate in good faith with very good proposals that benefit employees today and builds a stronger future for all of us. We are committed to continuing discussions around the clock to reach a resolution,” GM said in a statement.
In addition, to the demands for a pay increase, reduction in the use of temporary workers and shorter waiting-time for new employees to reach top wages which still remain on the table, GM’s plans for future investment also have become a major sticking point, according to sources familiar with the talks.
Union members interviewed on the picket line outside the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, said they would like to see the strike end quickly.
“I was hoping it would be over,” said one picket. At the same time, however, other pickets said it was necessary for the union to stand up to the company and win back concessions made during the company’s bankruptcy.
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Meanwhile, the cost of strike, which could approach $2 billion by the end of the week.