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General Motors strike: a missed opportunity by the UAW

This article is over 14 years, 7 months old
The United Auto Workers (UAW) union called off a strike by 73,000 workers at the General Motors (GM) US car firm, despite two days of solid action last week, after reaching a deal with the company.
Issue 2071

The United Auto Workers (UAW) union called off a strike by 73,000 workers at the General Motors (GM) US car firm, despite two days of solid action last week, after reaching a deal with the company.

The strike, over healthcare benefits and job security, shut down all of the company’s US facilities. It was the biggest industrial action in the US for seven years and rocked the world’s second biggest car-maker.

Both the union and GM claim victory. Ron Gettelfinger, the UAW president, said the deal would ‘keep jobs from being reduced’. But Rick Wagoner, the GM chief executive, said that the deal ‘helps us close the fundamental competitive gaps that exist in our business’.

The deal badly lets down the workers – who had shown their power to fight.

The union will control the healthcare fund, allowing the company to unload the healthcare liabilities from its balance sheets. There will also be a two-tier wages system.

Other US companies have seen the deal and want to make similar agreements with their workers.

The Wall Street Journal said that the deal ‘includes a historic restructuring of GM’s obligations for UAW retiree healthcare and sets up a mechanism for GM to buy out many of its current workers and replace them with new employees at lower wages’.

The deal still has to be ratified by UAW members. Many are unhappy with it and are campaigning against it.

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