UAW chief 'not optimistic' about settling strike by MondayJuly 11, 1998
Web posted at: 6:47 p.m. EDT (2247 GMT)
FLINT, Michigan (CNN) -- United Auto Workers chief negotiator Richard Shoemaker said Saturday he was "not optimistic at all" that two strikes that have crippled General Motors Corp. will be settled over the weekend, as GM had hoped.
Even though talks resumed Saturday at both plants in Flint, Michigan, where workers walked off the job a little over a month ago, the union vice president said the strike would not be settled by Monday until "they (GM) step up to the table here and very quickly say that they're prepared to resolve the issues between the parties."
GM had hoped to settle the strike before Monday, when its factories were to resume production of the 1999 models. Monday also marks the end of the company's annual two-week summer shutdown. Workers and parts plants have been idled across North America, because of the Flint walkouts.
"I think it's unfair to raise people's hopes that there might be a settlement in sight if you don't believe that, and I don't happen to believe that's the case," Shoemaker said.
Even if the Flint plants are reopened by Monday, it would still take several days to a week before parts could reach some strike-idled assembly plants.
GM Vice President Gerald Knechtel said he had nothing new to report as the negotiations continued.
"And I would say, again, it's not going as rapidly as we'd like to see it go," Knechtel told reporters.
"We are continuing to work and we're going to continue to work today and we will be back tomorrow," he said.
The settlement of the strikes is being held up by a disagreement over whether disputes at other GM plants in the Midwest should be resolved first.
Shoemaker warned two weeks ago that GM could face strikes at two brake plants in Dayton, Ohio, and a stamping plant in Indianapolis, once the Flint strikes were settled.
GM's demands that any Flint settlement also resolve problems at the Dayton and Indianapolis plants only will prolong the strike, Shoemaker said.
GM officials criticized that stance.
"It doesn't make much sense to settle plants that are on strike ... only to be at risk to go on strike again at other facilities," Knechtel said. "All we're trying to do is remove the risk."
The UAW locals in Dayton already have voted to authorize strikes at two Delphi brake plants there, if union leaders decide to call a strike against GM. A similar vote is scheduled next week at the UAW local covering the plant in Indianapolis.
The Michigan walkouts by 9,200 workers at the Flint Metals Center plant and the Delphi East manufacturing plant have idled 161,600 GM workers and frozen GM operations at 26 assembly plants in North America. The first strike began on June 5.
The disputes at both plants primarily concern GM's desire to farm out a greater portion of its parts manufacturing, a process known as outsourcing -- just as Ford and Chrysler have done -- to remain competitive.
The shrinking UAW is trying to keep GM from eliminating more of its members' jobs by transferring work to nonunion supplier firms.
GM has already lost $1.18 billion due to the strike. Shoemaker acknowledged that GM was feeling the effects.
"Strikes are intended to create economic pressure," he said. "They create economic pressure on both sides and, through that, if the process works, you find a way to settle these things."
GM has said about 1,700 workers at a Romulus, Michigan, plant will return to work Monday to build V-8 engines for a new generation of full-size pickup trucks that the company is planning to give an aggressive sales launch.
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