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Published: Tuesday, 5/13/2008

American Axle reports progress in talks with union

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT Negotiators for American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. and striking United Auto Workers made progress in weekend bargaining, but a company spokeswoman would not say if they are close to reaching a deal.

About 3,600 American Axle workers have been on strike for 11 weeks in a bitter dispute over the company s demand to cut wages and benefits to match those paid buy U.S. competitors.

American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers said both sides talked all day Sunday and a lot of progress was made.

She would not discuss details of the talks, which she said continued Monday.

The report of progress comes after UAW Ron Gettelfinger told Detroit radio station WWJ-AM on Saturday that negotiators were close on Friday until the company proposed closing another factory in New York. Gettelfinger called that an insult.

The strike, which began Feb. 26, has crippled production of General Motors Corp. s pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles.

At the end of last week, 34 GM plants were fully or partially shut down due to the strike, idling thousands of workers, GM spokesman Dan Flores said. He said five of the plants resumed production Monday.

Detroit-based American Axle is a small company that gets 80 percent of its business from GM. It makes axles, drive shafts and stabilizer bars for pickup trucks like the Chevrolet Silverado, GM s top-selling vehicle.

Many of its U.S. competitors won deals from the United Auto Workers to pay newly hired workers about $14 per hour. But American Axle workers say they won t take that big of a pay cut from a company that made $37 million last year.

Union members previously had said the company wanted to negotiate the closure of American Axle s Detroit and Tonawanda, N.Y., forge operations. Gettelfinger confirmed Saturday those had been agreed upon, but said the company added a third plant in Cheektowaga, N.Y., to the closure list.

There had been hope for a settlement after GM s surprise announcement Thursday that it would throw in $200 million to help end the walkout.

But on Monday morning, Gettelfinger was not optimistic that the strike would come to an end soon.

I would not predict how long this thing s going to go because it appears to me at this juncture it may be a while, he said on The Paul W. Smith Show on WJR-AM.

Messages were left Monday afternoon for UAW spokesman Roger Kerson.



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