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USA: 49,000 General Motors workers strike over failed contract negotiations covering wages, health insurance & prevention of plant closures; Includes comments from General Motors


In September 2019, approximately 49,000 General Motors workers across the USA began to strike after negotiations on a new contract between General Motors and the United Auto Workers union broke down.

Workers say they suffered low wages, temporary contracts and facility closures, to help the company when it went bankrupt. Given their sacrifices to help the company recover, workers say they are not being given enough of a share now that company profits have increased - General Motors achieved over $25bn over the last two years. The union is calling for higher wages, a health insurance plan in which workers pay roughly 3% of the costs, improved pensions and assurances that General Motors will not close plants scheduled for closure.

It is estimated that General Motors has lost over $500 million in profits as a result of the strikes, with an output shortfall of more than 8,000 vehicles a day. The company says it has offered workers a package including a pay rise of 2% in two years, followed by a 2% lump sum payment and investments in closing plants. The union has so far rejected these terms and talks continue. 

In October 2019, the strike came to an end, as United Auto Workers voted to approve a new deal with General Motors. The four-year deal includes a 3% pay rise, $11,000 bonuses for full-time workers, and a limit on the number of hired temporary workers. However, three plants slated for closure will remain closed.

Estimates suggest the strike has cost General Motors $2.9 billion this year, and that the agreed deal will result in an added $100 million a year on labour costs. 

Comments from General Motors in response to the strikes and workers' demands can be found in the articles linked below.

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29 October 2019

USA: General Motors strike ends with full year cost of $2.9 billion & new deal increasing labour costs by $100 million a year, including pay rise & limits on temporary workers

Author: David Welch, Bloomberg

"GM Cuts Forecast, Sees Strike’s Full-Year Cost at $2.9 Billion", 29 October 2019

General Motors Co. is preparing to pay the bill for a nearly six-week strike at its U.S. plants...slashing its earnings forecast for the year by...about $2.9 billion.The walkout hit GM’s profit by $1 billion in the third quarter alone, the company said in a statement...

 ...the...company may be able to make up for some lost vehicle output as it ramps up production now that it has settled a new four-year labor deal. And third-quarter performance wasn’t as bad as some analysts predicted...

 ...For GM, the strike’s impact is two-fold. It not only hit profits for this year but also adds $100 million a year to its labor costs going forward, according to an estimate from Credit Suisse...

...As part of the new labor deal, GM will give workers a 3% raise, $11,000 ratification bonuses for tenured workers and reduce the amount of time entry-level workers need to get to top pay. The deal also sets some limits on the numbers of temporary workers who can be hired.

 If not for the strike, GM would have turned out a record quarter...

Read the full post here

28 October 2019

USA: General Motors strike ends as union members approve new deal, including wage increases & bonuses, but fails to cancel closure of some plants

Author: Tom Perkins & Dominic Rushe, The Guardian

"GM strike ends after 40 days with 48,000 staff to return to work", 25 October 2019

The longest strike by autoworkers in a decade came to an end on Friday as United Auto Workers members voted to approve a new deal with General Motors...

...While a majority voted to ratify the agreement, some said they were dissatisfied with the outcome. A worker...questioned why the union had agreed to close three plants and called the contract “vague” in key areas...

...The four-year deal...includes 3% base wage increases during years two and four, and an $11,000 bonus upon ratification for full-time employees. Temporary workers will receive $4,500. Under the proposal, GM will invest $7.7bn in US factories, the Detroit-Hamtramck plant will be saved from closure, and temporary workers will be given a path to permanent employment.

But GM’s plant in Lordstown, Ohio will remain closed, as will plants in Baltimore and Warren, Michigan. GM has made no commitment to keep jobs in the US and will continue to build up production in Mexico.

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4 October 2019

Mexico: General Motors workers dismissed after organising in solidarity with US protests

Author: Lauren Kaori Gurley, VICE

"General Motors Fired Five Mexican Workers For Aiding the U.S. Auto Strike", 25 September 2019

A General Motors plant in Mexico fired at least five workers who organized to aid the GM strike in the United States, according to the Mexican newspaper Periódico Correo and an organizer for workers at Mexican plant.

Mexican GM workers organized to resist pressure to increase assembly line production, which would offset GM’s losses in the 48,000-worker strike in the United States...Motherboard has independently confirmed that workers in the Silao plant are organizing in solidarity with their colleagues in the US; an organizer named Israel Cervantes Córdova working with people in the Mexican plant also confirmed that five people were recently fired for taking action...

...GM and the UAW did not respond to requests for comment.

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2 October 2019

Mexico: Over 6,000 GM workers temporarily laid off as union rejects new offer on working conditions

Author: Al Jazeera

"UAW rejects new GM offer, as strike spurs 6,000 Mexico furloughs", 1 October 2019

The United Automobile Workers union has said it rejected a new...offer from General Motors Co to end a two-week-old strike, saying the...automaker came up short on several fronts including wages, healthcare and temporary workers.

The union said on Tuesday that it made a counterproposal and warned "there are still many important issues that remain unresolved".

GM said the strike...forced it to halt production at its pickup and transmission plants in Silao, Mexico, resulting in furloughs for 6,000 workers.

Affected Mexican workers are being paid a percentage of their salaries, with some workers using vacation time to continue receiving their full salaries.

...GM in Mexico said that "for the moment" its three other Mexican plants – in Ramos Arizpe, San Luis Potosi and Toluca – are working normally. A spokesman in Mexico said the plants still had parts available, but the company could not say how many more days the plants would remain open...

Read the full post here

30 September 2019

USA: General Motors workers strike over health benefits, temporary workers, wages, and plant closures

Author: Detroit Free Press

"UAW strike against GM: The basics, the issues, where it stands right now ", 29 September 2019

 ...The Free Press is told these are the key unresolved issues...:

...GM's initial offer...called for members to pay 15% of their health care costs. They currently pay about 3%...The UAW...walked it back to 3%...GM said it pays about $900 million a year for U.S. hourly employees' health care...

...The UAW wants GM to create a process for temporary workers to become permanent employees. Currently, some temps remain at that status for years and earn less...and get fewer benefits than permanent workers and get no paid time off...

...UAW members want a bigger wage boost than GM initially offered, which was a 2% raise in two years of the four-year deal and a 2% lump sum payment in the other years. In 2015, GM gave workers a 3% wage boost in two years and a 4% lump sum the other two years...

...The UAW is pushing for GM to build more product in the United States and keep assembly plants at Detroit-Hamtramck and Lordstown, Ohio, operational...

...GM...said it would invest $7 billion in U.S. facilities and create or retain 5,400 jobs. About half of those would be new jobs...but some would be through joint ventures and pay less than typical assembly jobs...

Read the full post here

27 September 2019

USA: General Motors misses out on over $500 million of profit due to strikes at its factories

Author: David Welch, Bloomberg

"GM Has Lost Over Half A Billion Dollars Because Of The Strike", 25 September 2019

After missing out on more than $500 million of profit due to a strike, General Motors Co. has reached a potential turning point in its contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers.

Proposals regarding all unsettled issues have been presented to the automaker, and the union is awaiting a response, Terry Dittes, the vice president of the UAW’s GM department, wrote in a letter to the labor group’s leaders Wednesday...

...The strike has cost GM output of more than 8,000 vehicles a day, according to analysts at IHS Markit. With each vehicle averaging about $8,000 in earnings before interest and taxes, and the walkout affecting nearly nine production days, GM has missed out on as much as $544 million in profit, based on calculations Credit Suisse analyst Dan Levy made in a report last week. The total would reach $700 million by Sunday if no settlement is reached this week...

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27 September 2019

USA: General Motors shifts healthcare payments of striking workers to union, as workers continue to protest ‘betrayal’ of company

Author: Dominic Rushe, The Guardian

"'A strike for the little guy': auto workers hope a deal will change the industry", 20 September 2019

...The United Auto Workers union walked out on General Motors last Sunday night...after contract negotiations broke down. Some 49,000 people are now taking industrial action...

...Jackson has worked for GM for 26 years...There is widespread support for the strikers, said Jackson. People know what happens at GM will set a benchmark for negotiations...If we win, everyone wins...,”...

...There is a sense of betrayal among...workers...GM received about $50bn from US taxpayers when it went bankrupt at the height of the last recession...GM workers suffered too as pay was frozen, more “temporary” workers were brought on at lower wages and facilities closed.

GM has pulled in over $25bn in profits over the last two years...“We gave back to the company. Now they have made a boatload of cash. It’s time to share the wealth.”

Relations between the two sides worsened this week when GM announced a surprise decision to shift the cost of workers’ healthcare payments to the union immediately...

Read the full post here

20 September 2019

USA: General Motors stops paying for health insurance of striking workers

Author: Bryan Woolston, Thomson Reuters Foundation

"GM stops paying for health insurance for striking union workers; talks continue", 17 September 2019

General Motors Co shifted health insurance costs for its striking workers to the United Auto Workers union as its members walked the picket line for the second day on Tuesday.

The UAW on Monday launched the first company-wide strike at GM in 12 years, saying negotiations toward a new national agreement covering about 48,000 hourly workers had hit an impasse...

...GM said coverage for the striking workers’ health insurance reverted to the union, which unsuccessfully sought to have the No. 1 U.S. automaker cover those costs through the end of the month. That places another drain on the union’s strike fund.

“We understand strikes are difficult and disruptive to families,” GM spokesman Jim Cain said in an email. “While on strike, some benefits shift to being funded by the union’s strike fund, and in this case hourly employees are eligible for union-paid COBRA so their health care benefits can continue.”

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16 September 2019

USA: GM Workers shut down 33 factories across the US after failed negotiations on wages, health care and plant closures

Author: CBS News

"UAW hits GM with nationwide strike", 16 September 2019

Some 46,000 members of the United Auto Workers went on strike...walking off General Motors factory floors...Workers shut down 33 manufacturing plants...across the U.S. as well as 22 parts distribution warehouses...

...the union...[said] GM has budged little in months of talks while GM said it made substantial offers including higher wages and factory investments...

...UAW Vice President Terry Dittes...said a strike was...needed because both sides were far apart in negotiating a new...contract...."We are standing up for fair wages, we are standing up for affordable quality health care, we are standing up for our share of the profits."

GM...said it is offering pay raises and $7 billion worth of U.S. factory investments...The company also said it offered higher profit sharing, "nationally leading" health benefits and an $8,000 payment to each worker upon ratification of a new contract...

...The union wants annual pay raises...but the company wants to pay lump sums tied to earnings...The union also wants new products for the four factories slated to close.

Union members... pay about 4% of the cost [of health insurance plans]. Employees at large firms nationwide pay about 34%...Automakers would like to cut costs. 

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