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Published: Thursday, 5/15/2008

GM, UAW local reach contract agreement that could end strike


DETROIT General Motors Corp. and a local union reached a new labor agreement Thursday that could end a monthlong strike at a Michigan plant which makes some of GM s hottest selling vehicles.

The Detroit automaker and UAW Local 602 reached the tentative agreement in the early morning hours, GM spokesman Dan Flores said. UAW Local 602 represents 3,300 workers at the Delta Township plant, which makes GM s hot-selling Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia crossovers.

Workers at the Lansing-area plant, who have been on strike since April 17, will remain on strike until they ratify the contract. A ratification vote is scheduled for Friday morning, according to the Local 602 Web site. A message seeking comment on the contract was left with Local 602 President Doug Rademacher.

GM and the UAW reached a national contract agreement last fall, but local unions negotiate their own work rules and other issues. A UAW local at a plant in Kansas City, Kan., which makes the popular Chevrolet Malibu sedan remains on strike. That strike began May 5.

The end of the strike at Delta Township and the canceling of a threatened strike that had been scheduled to start Thursday at a GM stamping plant near Mansfield, Ohio, could signal the national UAW is close to a contract agreement at American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc.

GM is American Axle s largest customer, and many industry analysts have suggested the local UAW strikes were an effort to draw GM into the negotiations. GM has offered $200 million for buyouts and supplemental pay for workers at American Axle in an effort to bring the 80-day strike to a close. The UAW has denied that the local strikes were related to American Axle.

American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers said Thursday that negotiations were progressing.

On Wednesday, GM canceled health care benefits for the striking workers at Delta Township, saying it was not obligated to offer those benefits during a strike. Flores said benefits will be reinstated when workers are back on the job. It was the first time GM has canceled benefits for strikers since a 47-day strike in Flint in 1998.

An official at Local 602 said the UAW was picking up the tab for health benefits. The UAW also is paying workers $200 a week in strike pay.

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