contract talks said to be close to deal on health care trust
Creating the fund to pay for retiree benefits had been the
sticking point in negotiations that have dragged on after the
By Dee-ann Durbin, Associated Press
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Saturday, September 22, 2007
DETROIT - General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers are
close to an agreement on a historic deal that would transfer the
automaker's retiree health care costs to a trust managed by the
union, according to a person who was briefed on the contract
The details of the plan haven't yet been worked out, said the
person, who requested anonymity because the talks are private.
An agreement on the health care trust is the linchpin of the
negotiations, which began in July and have already gone a week
past their original deadline.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger told members Friday that he is
trying to speed up negotiations with General Motors and wants to
reach a contract agreement without a strike.
"We are continuing to make progress; however, we are pushing to
accelerate the negotiating pace at all levels," he said in a
message to UAW members. "It is our desire to reach an agreement
without a strike, and we have demonstrated this by staying at
the bargaining table up to this point."
Gettelfinger added that the effort to speed the talks doesn't
mean any of the union's options are off the table, including a
strike, according to the message, which was posted Friday on a
GM and the UAW spent Friday negotiating issues such as wages and
job security, while experts helped finalize the possible health
care deal, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
GM and the union have asked an independent party to review both
sides' financial calculations for a deal that would place the
automaker's retiree health care obligations in a UAW-managed
trust, according to a local union leader who was briefed on the
talks, who also requested anonymity.
In the meantime, Friday's talks focused on outstanding issues
other than the health care trust, according to another person
who was briefed on the talks but, like others involved,
That person said that the pace of the talks has picked up and
negotiators are expected to meet through the weekend.
Negotiators have settled noneconomic issues such as grievance
procedures, but still are working through issues including pay,
job security and pensions.
Local union officials said that they had gotten few updates from
bargainers, and expressed some frustration at the long wait for
a new contract. Friday marked one week since the expiration of
GM's contract with the union. The UAW has been extending the
contract hour-by-hour since then.
Chris (Tiny) Sherwood, the president of Local 652 in Lansing,
Mich., said that it's unusual for the contract to be extended
for so long on an hour-by-hour basis. The union is continuing
to tell local leaders to have workers ready for a strike if
talks break down.
"A week later we're still hanging in there," Sherwood said.
Negotiators went home Friday evening and were to meet again this
morning, GM spokeswoman Katie McBride said.
The talks likely will take several more days to complete, one of
the people briefed about the talks said.
Gettelfinger said negotiators have met for 18 days in a row. He
said that the union is releasing little information to members
because the negotiations frequently change.
"We want you to know, once again, that we do not take your
patience for granted, and GM should know not to take the
patience of our bargaining committee for granted either,"