September 15, 2007 in Nation/World

UAW talks go into overtime

Dee-ann Durbin and Tom Krisher Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

United Auto Workers members Mike Freeman, left, who has worked at General Motors Corp. for 35 years, and Roger Kendrick, right, who has also worked at GM for 35 years, prepare picket signs in case of a strike at UAW Local 599 in Flint, Mich., on Friday. Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

DETROIT – Negotiations between the United Auto Workers and General Motors Corp. continued past a midnight deadline, a local union leader said early today as GM workers across the nation prepared for a possible strike.

Chris “Tiny” Sherwood, president of UAW Local 652 at a Cadillac plant in Lansing, Mich., said he received a call around midnight from UAW leadership in Detroit telling him to wait for another hour.

The contract was extended one hour, said Glenn Johnson, vice president of UAW Local 1112 at a sprawling GM assembly complex in Lordstown, Ohio, near Cleveland. About 100 people waited at the union hall for instructions shortly after midnight.

Union officials had expected a telephone call from UAW leadership in Detroit about 10 p.m. EDT telling them whether they should strike or stay on the job. But local union officials said that call was delayed because of developments at the bargaining table.

GM spokesman Tom Wickham said negotiations were ongoing at midnight.

The UAW chose GM as its lead company and possible strike target Thursday. Typically, the union negotiates a contract with the lead company and then presses the other two Detroit automakers to accept the same terms. Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC have extended their contracts indefinitely, although talks are continuing and either side could break off the contract extension with three days’ notice.

GM had a 65-day supply of vehicles at the end of August, slightly lower than the 67-day average for the U.S.-based automakers, according to Ward’s AutoInfoBank. Paul Taylor, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said the ideal is a 60-day supply.

Taylor said a short strike could actually help GM reduce its inventory of pickups. Right now, the Chevrolet Silverado stands at a 90-day supply, higher than the industry average of 81 days for pickups. GM announced last month that it plans to cut 1,200 jobs at one of the plants that makes the Silverado, and a strike could speed that process.

But Taylor said a longer strike, or a strike that could hurt hot-selling vehicles, would be disastrous. The Buick Enclave crossover, for example, has only a 24-day supply and is leading a revival of the Buick brand.

“I see some posturing to let them know a strike is still a tool that can be used, but it’s like bleeding both patients in the negotiations with leeches,” he said. “It would bleed both sides to death.”

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