DETROIT -- A top UAW official is recommending to the union’s board that it ratify a tentative four-year agreement with General Motors, despite a “no” vote from skilled-trades workers, according to two people familiar with the matter.
UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, head of the GM department, told local union officials during a conference call early Thursday that she planned to recommend that UAW President Dennis Williams and the union’s International Executive Board ratify the pact, according to two people who listened to the call.
Later Thursday, after the union's executive board met via a conference call, union officials held a second call with local UAW leaders.
Williams and Estrada told local presidents and shop chairs that they would go back to GM to clarify contract language covering the concerns of skilled trades workers before the UAW's International Executive Board made a ratification decision, The Detroit News reported late Thursday.
The paper, citing two people familiar with the union's conference calls Thursday, said the UAW has already obtained letters of clarification from GM about some language in the agreement.
It's unclear when a decision by the union will be announced.
Skilled trades workers are concerned about some local contract agreements, as well as problems with the overall GM contract, such as the lack of a buyout or retirement incentive for skilled trades workers, and the lack of cost of living increases.
Some skilled trades workers are also worried about the reclassification of plant jobs that would require them to do multiple duties and the loss of seniority or shift preferences under the contract.
There are also concerns that some factory work now covered by skilled trades could be outsourced, the News said.
Last week, the UAW said the tentative contract that was approved by a majority of GM union workers who voted couldn’t be ratified because the skilled-trades workers -- who represent about 15 percent of GM’s 52,600 UAW-represented employees -- voted it down.
The UAW’s constitution requires approval by both production and skilled-trades workers. But under the rules, the union can seek to reopen negotiations with GM only if the workers’ objections center on work rules related specifically to the skilled trades -- the elimination of job categories, for example -- rather than on wages, bonuses or other economic aspects of the pact.
Union leaders this week visited GM plants across the country to meet with local union officials and skilled-trades workers to get to the bottom of their disapproval. That process wrapped up on Tuesday.
Mix of issues
Estrada said during Thursday’s call that the skilled-trades workers’ complaints included a mix of economic issues -- being excluded from a $60,000 retirement buyout offered to some production workers, for example -- and non-economic ones, such as a consolidation of worker classifications that could require expanded duties, the sources said.
She said GM has signaled that some of those work-specific issues can be hashed out at the local level, rather than set in stone in the national contract.
“She believes they’ve addressed all the key issues that could hold up” ratification, one of the sources said.