UAW ratifies labor contract with GM after work rules revised

The UAW ratified a new contract with General Motors, which has an assembly plant in Arlington.
The UAW ratified a new contract with General Motors, which has an assembly plant in Arlington. Special to the Star-Telegram/Mar

General Motors finally got its new contract with the United Auto Workers ratified after revising some work rules to appease skilled-trades employees.

The accord hit a snag earlier this month. Even though a majority of UAW members voted in favor, the skilled-trades group — which includes employees such as plumbers, electricians, millwrights — within the union rejected it. UAW rules require approval from production workers and the trades group but gives the leadership override authority if there’s majority support.

Union leaders met with GM and the company agreed to changes that protect core trades classifications and seniority rights, the UAW said in a statement Friday. The union’s council of local leaders concluded that the skilled-trades issues were addressed and gave it their unanimous support.

The new contract, which includes raises for all and as well as bonuses and improved benefits, is expected to keep labor costs per vehicle stable for GM, according to the Center for Automotive Research.

As older workers making $28 an hour or more retire, GM will be able to hire replacements at $17 an hour. It takes eight years for the entry-level hires to work up to the wage earned by veteran factory hands, which will top $29 an hour at the end of the contract. The Detroit-based automaker can also use more temps, who make less money.

Another big offset for GM is that it gets to make some engines and transmissions in Mexico, where costs are lower, Dziczek said.

In voting that ended earlier this month, more than 55 percent of UAW members voted to accept the agreement. That included approval by 58 percent of the production workers, the larger group, while almost 60 percent of the skilled-trades workers opposed the deal. Workers at GM’s Arlington Assembly Plant turned it down, with 51 percent voting against.

“General Motors is pleased that the UAW membership ratified the 2015 UAW-GM National Agreement, which is good for employees and the business,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.