UAW Hails 6,500 New Jobs in GM Contract

Workers at an engine plant outside of Detroit will now build a motor GM was scheduled to build in Mexico.

The United Auto Workers said it succeeded in bringing back jobs from Mexico in a new contract with General Motors, which the union expects to serve as the basis for talks with Chrysler and Ford.

The 6,500 new jobs created in the United States as a result of the deal are desperately needed amid a deep economic downturn and will help the UAW rebuild its membership rolls after decades of mass layoffs and downsizing.

Joe Ashton, the UAW's top negotiator in the talks with GM, said workers at an engine plant outside of Detroit will now build a motor GM was scheduled to build in Mexico.

A Detroit-area transmission plant also will get work slated for Mexico and GM has agreed to reopen the company's assembly plant in Tennessee to build two different mid-sized vehicles originally slated for Mexican production. Other jobs will be added throughout GM's manufacturing base in the United States, Ashton said.

"When GM was struggling our members shared in the sacrifice," Aston said."Now that the company is posting profits again our members want to share in the success."

The contract -- GM's first since emerging from a government-backed bankruptcy in 2009 -- also included bonus money, lump sum and incentive pay totaling about $12,000 per union member over the four-year term of the agreement.

GM succeeded in holding the line on wages for the 96% of workers who are considered "senior" and collect $29 per hour. Newer workers will see their hourly wage rise from $14.78 to $18.28 by the final year of the contract.

It was endorsed unanimously by top union officials and must now be ratified by members.

"Two years ago, GM and Chrysler were hanging by a thread when President (Barack) Obama stepped in and invested federal funds to help turn the companies and the U.S. auto industry around, protect the auto supplier base and keep good-paying jobs in America," UAW president Bob King said.

"This tentative contract provides jobs for UAW members who have been laid off over the last several years, creates thousands and thousands of new jobs for communities in desperate need of work, and brings production back to the United States that had been moved to Mexico and other parts of the world."

The tentative agreement includes a $5,000 signing bonus to be paid after ratification by GM's 48,000 unionized workers. Workers will also receive an annual $1,000 lump sum payment to cover any increase in the cost of living and an annual bonus of $250 bonus if certain quality targets are met.

Workers are guaranteed an additional $3,500 in profit sharing, which could total as much as $20,000 over the life of the agreement, King said.

For the first time in generations, the union failed to make any improvement in the pension of retirees. "The reason for that is simple," King said. "We now have 10 retirees for every active worker. We used to have four or five active workers for every retiree."

King also emphasized that he expects Ford and Chrysler to accept the basic terms of the agreement. "Pattern bargaining has served us well over the years. We're not going to change," he said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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