GM Workers Head Back to Plants

American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings strike is over.

General Motors Corp. began calling workers back to some plants shuttered by a crippling strike at a key supplier but is not expected to get back to full production for at least a week. GM's production has been cut by more than 300,000 vehicles since the strike began February 26 at former GM subsidiary American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc.

The first five weeks of the nearly three month-long strike cost the automaker $800 million, GM said.

More than 30 plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico were affected by the strike and two other GM plants were shut down by local union strikes in what many analysts considered an attempt to pressure GM to step into the negotiations.

The United Auto Workers union reached a tentative agreement with American Axle late May 16 and will be holding a key ratification vote on May 22. The vote at American Axle is likely to be close because many strikers are angry over the terms of the agreement which required significant concessions. Workers had said last week they were prepared to stay out all summer in order to get what they described as a fair contract.

The tentative agreement accepted by UAW negotiators features different pay rates at each of the company's plants. Wages would sink to as low as $10 per hour for some jobs. It also reduces the hourly wages of a production worker in Detroit from $28 to $18.50 an hour. The company had originally proposed cutting wages to $14.50 per hour.

As part of the transition to lower wages, qualified workers would get a wage "buydown" of up to $105,000 over the next three years, according to a union summary. Those who accepted early retirement would get buyouts of up to $140,000.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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