The clock is ticking for General Motors executives to reach a proposed tentative agreement with the UAW, people close to the talks said Tuesday.
The union’s move to summon its National GM Council to Detroit for a meeting Thursday morning was a pressure tactic to prompt GM leaders to reach a deal acceptable to the UAW, said three people familiar with the talks.
Talks continued Tuesday, with GM CEO Mary Barra and President Mark Reuss joining UAW President Gary Jones at the “main table” with the UAW’s lead negotiator in the talks, Terry Dittes.
That was widely seen as moving the talks toward their final phase, but no agreement had been reached Tuesday afternoon. Also present were the bargaining committee members for both sides. A person close to the talks said Barra and Reuss did not stay for discussions through the afternoon.
“Mary’s got two days to come up with a contract, then the National Council meets to decide what to do next,” said a person briefed on the negotiations late Tuesday.
For such heavyweights to show up to the main table indicates a proposed deal is likely close at hand, likely to happen late Wednesday or in the early morning hours Thursday prior to the National Council’s meeting, said one person who had been briefed on the talks.
“If they don’t have a deal, they will give us an update and let us know what the protocol is at that point,” said a UAW local leader who asked to not be named. “Product allocation is an issue GM has come late to the table on.”
Product allocation refers to company commitments to invest in U.S. plants and create or preserve jobs. Early in the process, GM said it had committed $7 billion over the four-year life of the contract, which would create or preserve 5,400 jobs. The Free Press reported that only half of those jobs would be new, and some of the investment would be through joint ventures whose jobs would pay less than GM autoworker positions.
Here is how the process of getting to a tentative agreement works:
The UAW’s top national negotiators accept GM’s offer. It then becomes a proposed tentative agreement.
It goes to the local UAW presidents and chairpeople on the National GM Council.
If those leaders vote to recommend it for ratification, it is an official tentative agreement that is sent to the 46,000 union members for either ratification or rejection.
Assuming there is a tentative agreement, the National GM Council will have to decide when to end the strike.
The UAW International Executive Board then adopts the contract upon membership ratification.
In pattern bargaining, the union chose to negotiate with GM first, intending to use that contract as a template for a deal with Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Automakers tend to want to go first because the target company can work terms into a contract that best serve its business needs.
But if the union does not get an acceptable contract from GM by Thursday’s council meeting, some UAW regional directors said Tuesday they would recommend the UAW leadership switch to Ford as the target company while leaving GM on strike, said people familiar with those discussions
This could be disaster for GM, leaving its fate in the hands of a crosstown rival while the union continues to strike 55 sites in 10 states, freezing production there and at its pickup plant in Mexico.
UAW President Jones decides if the union will switch target companies. It has never done that in the past, only threatened, labor experts said.
“The union already has the contract it wants with Ford,” said a person close to the talks. “Ford has the union’s desired contract sitting on the table. It wouldn’t take a lot of tweaking.”