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Gm, Autoworkers Reach Agreement On National Pact Negotiators Also Resolve One Of Two Walkouts On Local Issues

Hours after General Motors and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative national contract, they resolved local issues Saturday at a metal-stamping plant where a four-day strike caused parts shortages and shutdowns at other assembly plants.

A second walkout over local issues that led to the shutdown of GM’s truck plant in Janesville, Wis., remained unresolved.

More shutdowns had been expected this week before the Indianapolis walkout was resolved. The agreement could put the 2,750 union members back on the job and get the four high-profit truck assembly plants up and running by Monday.

“We’re supposed to get it ratified by noon tomorrow,” GM spokesman Pat Morrissey said of the Indianapolis deal. “We’re certainly hopeful that we’ll be back on full production by Monday.”

Earlier Saturday, GM and the AW announced a tentative national contract, averting a national strike but leaving unaddressed the local issues in Indianapolis and Janesville.

GM Chairman Jack Smith Jr. said the company was focused on resolving the local issues quickly. “It’s important to get those operations back to work and building high quality cars and trucks,” he said.

Representatives of the 4,800 workers in Janesville and GM were still talking Saturday when the Indianapolis deal was announced.

The national agreement, covering 215,000 GM workers, came at 1:30 a.m. after four months of negotiations and a final 17-hour session.

Details were not released. The UAW said its national bargaining committee endorsed the pact unanimously. It next goes to the UAW-GM council of local presidents for approval Wednesday before going to members for ratification.

President Clinton issued a statement saying he was hopeful the tentative national agreement would be ratified, “and that the outstanding local issues will quickly be resolved so that everyone can get back to work.”

Issues at the local level often are more difficult to resolve than those in the national contract, said Dale Brickner, a Michigan State University labor professor who studies the Big Three negotiations.

“Local-level relations between the UAW and GM are much more frayed at the edges and are much more hostile than at the national level,” Brickner said.

GM already was struggling to catch up from last month’s three-week strike by the Canadian Auto Workers union, which shut down its plants in Canada and led to slowdowns and closures of dozens of parts and assembly plants in the United States and Mexico. Fifteen of those plants remained at least partially idled this weekend.

By Saturday, the Indianapolis strike had shut down plants in Shreveport, La.; Linden, N.J.; Moraine, Ohio; and Fort Wayne, Ind.

And a GM source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the parts shortage was likely to lead to the closing of a pickup plant in Pontiac, Mich., on Monday, followed later in the week by pickup plants in Flint, Mich., and Oshawa, Ontario.

If the Indianapolis plant ratifies the contract today , officials hope those closing can be averted.

A total of 18,909 workers were off their jobs because of the strikes and shutdowns, and an additional 18,958 GM workers remained idle because of lingering parts shortages from the Canadian strike.

While details on the national agreement were withheld pending Wednesday’s union meeting, GM chief negotiator Gerald A. Knechtel said it followed the pattern established in national pacts the UAW signed with Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp.

Those companies agreed to maintain at least 95 percent of their UAW-covered jobs for the next three years, with exceptions for an industry downturn and jobs replaced by improved productivity.

GM was seeking broader exceptions that would allow it to trim its work force by tens of thousands of jobs, especially in its big parts subsidiary, Delphi Automotive Systems.

The Ford and Chrysler pacts also include a $2,000 lump sum in the first year, followed by 3 percent base wage increases in the second and third years. GM did not dispute the wage provisions.

“Like any negotiation, you never get everything you want,” Smith said. “We are pleased with the way it’s worked out. We can get the things done that we need to get done. We’re happy about that.”

Smith said the company and UAW negotiators worked well together, but acknowledged that the process was not smooth.

“Our relationship isn’t the best; and the obvious is, it’s something you’ve got to work on,” Yokich said.

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