United Auto Workers union leaders on Thursday cautioned General Motors against taking unilateral action to cut benefits, saying such action could destroy cooperative efforts to improve GM operations.
"By working together, the UAW and GM have done a lot of important things over the past several years, including making dramatic improvements in workplace safety, productivity and product quality," UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Vice President Richard Shoemaker, head of the union's GM department, said in a statement.
"It would be a huge mistake for GM to throw all that away by taking any unilateral action on health care benefits or other matters covered by our national agreement," the UAW leaders said.
The UAW will continue to discuss ways to cut GM costs but will not reopen its national contract, the statement said. GM has said it needs relief, particularly from health care costs.
But the union emphasized that cost-cutting must be acceptable to both sides and appeared to reject any deadline for action. A source close to the discussions between GM and the UAW told Reuters news service that the automaker wants an agreement by the end of June.
"We are committed to continue with these discussions as long as they remain focused on finding mutually agreeable approaches to dealing with what everyone recognizes are very complex issues that affect all GM stakeholders," the statement said.
"We recognize this process may not be moving as quickly as some people might like," the UAW executives added. "But we firmly believe that it is far more important to do things the right way than to rush to meet unrealistic expectations."