GM And UAW Launch 2011 Contract TalksBy Michelle Krebs July 27, 2011
General Motors Co. and the United Auto Workers kicked off 2011 contract talks Wednesday with the ceremonial handshake and a pledge by both sides to keep the automaker competitive with its rivals. "We want the new GM to succeed and when it does, everyone will benefit, said Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson (above, left). We are playing to win, and were counting on our workforce -- hourly and salaried -- to take on the challenges together and forge new partnerships as a competitive advantage." Wednesdays ceremony took place at GMs Detroit-Hamtramck facility surrounded by plant employees. The assembly plant builds the range-extended Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, which will be tripling in capacity shortly after a short shutdown.
The plant will also assemble the next-generation 2012 Chevrolet Malibu and Volt-based Opel Ampera for export to Europe. The untraditional location for the ceremony put the focus on workers and the products they build. Our members bring a lot to any organization a commitment to quality and producing the best product for the best price, UAW President King said. Our talks will center on the needs of our members and the need to continue to build great products. The actual negotiations will take place at UAW-GM Center for Human Resources in downtown Detroit. The current four-year labor agreement expires at midnight on Sept. 14. Chrysler and the UAW held its opening ceremony on Monday; Ford will hosts its kick off with the UAW on Friday.
These negotiations are the first since GM and Chrysler were forced through a federally-funded Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. Workers for both companies are prohibited from striking against their employers. Instead, an impasse will be settled through binding arbitration. Like Chrysler and Ford, GM will try to hold the line on labor costs in these negotiations while the UAW seeks to regain some of the concessions it made during the auto industrys recent hard times. The UAW also will be pressing automakers to create more jobs. A source of contention will be the two-tier wage structure negotiated in the last round of talks. That structure allows car companies to hire new workers at a lower wage rate than current workers; that rate is about half of what senior autoworkers make.
Also unusual at Wednesdays ceremonial handshake was the GM-UAW announcement that the parties would make a $25,000 donation to the Wounded Warrior Project. GMs Akerson, who served as an officer on a Navy destroyer in the 1970s, said he would personally match the donation. GM further announced a commitment to increase the number of veterans in its workforce as it hires new employees. Military service will be among factors considered in the screening process, GM said.