Sun, Sep 30, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Union leaders support tentative GM-UAW agreement

AP , DETROIT, MICHIGAN

Local union leaders have endorsed a tentative agreement between General Motors Corp (GM) and the United Auto Workers (UAW) that requires GM to pay out at least US$35 billion for retiree health care, establishes lower wages for thousands of new employees and offers an unprecedented number of promises for future work at US plants, a summary of the agreement provided by the UAW showed.

The agreement still is subject to a vote of GM's 74,000 UAW members, which should be completed by Oct. 10. UAW president Ron Gettelfinger said on Friday he was confident members would support the agreement and that Ford Motor Co and Chrysler LLC would match many of its terms.

GM spokesman Dan Flores said both UAW workers and the company benefit from the agreement.

GM did not release any specifics of the contract on Friday; the company typically waits until the contract is ratified to make detailed comments.

"Not only does this new agreement enhance the security for employees and retirees, it enables GM to close competitive gaps in our business, and the projected competitive improvements will allow us to maintain a strong manufacturing presence in the US with significant future investments," Flores said.

Gettelfinger said he had not yet decided whether the union would negotiate with Ford or Chrysler next, but he expects to make that call next week. Both automakers have extended their contracts with the union indefinitely.

The linchpin of the deal is a trust fund for retiree health care, known as a Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association, or VEBA. GM, which has around 340,000 retirees and spouses, wanted to form the VEBA in order to get US$51 billion in retiree health care debt off its books.

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