July 29, 2014

Elyria
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Sources say progress made in auto talks

DETROIT — General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers made progress at the bargaining table Saturday but still faced significant hurdles and weren’t expected to agree on a new contract until later in the weekend.

Some union subcommittees — which handle issues such as pensions, benefits and job security — have wrapped up talks, but an agreement wasn’t expected Saturday because negotiators were still dealing with some key issues, according to a person who was briefed on the negotiations.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private, also confirmed that GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner is actively involved in the talks.

Talks were ongoing Saturday evening, GM spokesman Tom Wickham said.

Several local union officials who have been in touch with bargainers said the outstanding issue is retiree health care expenses. GM wants the union to take over responsibility for retiree health care costs using a company-funded trust, and the union was asking for job guarantees in exchange for taking on the costs. The local officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the talks.

GM’s 73,000 U.S. auto workers were without a contract as of midnight Friday and could go on strike at any time if negotiations break down. In Spring Hill, Tenn., hundreds of union members were at the local UAW hall Saturday, waiting for news.

“Members are very apprehensive. These are historic times, and everybody realized that,” said UAW Local 1853 President Mike O’Rourke. Workers have faith in the UAW’s negotiating team, he added.

This year’s contract talks are considered crucial to the survival of GM and its U.S.-based counterparts, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC. Ford and Chrysler were also in talks over the weekend, but they extended their contracts with the UAW indefinitely Thursday after the UAW named GM the lead company in the negotiations.