GM employees back to work; Canadian plants to reopen

DETROIT — Despite predictions earlier in the week that a nationwide strike by 70,000 GM workers would be a long one, the United Auto Workers and the carmaker have reportedly reached a tentative agreement this morning to end the two-day labor standoff.

The deal sends the striking UAW members back to work today.

Bloomberg reports that GM and the union reached an historic four-year contract, which includes the company taking $50 billion of future health-care obligations off its books.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said the union received “outstanding’ job-security pledges for workers in exchange.

The news agency says that the deal sets a precedent for the American auto industry, as it allows the automaker to operate with a cost structure closer to that of its Japanese rivals, which have been grabbing larger chunks of North American market share in recent years. Toyota is poised to overtake GM as the world’s largest carmaker this year.

If the deal ratified — the union says it probably will be — rivals Ford and Chrysler will likely seek similar cost-saving arrangements with the UAW.
The news was welcomed by the Canadian Auto Workers north of the border, where GM was forced to close two Oshawa, Ont. assembly plants because powertrains and other critical components were not being shipped to the facilities.

Transport providers and Canadian suppliers of components — who are already being forced by the Big Three automakers to cut prices and rates — are also breathing a sigh of relief today.

Thousands of employees working for chassis, seat and panel manufacturers were sent home as suppliers — fearing a long standoff –were forced to cut shifts this week.

The GM strike was the first national work stoppage for the U.S. auto industry since a 67-day strike in 1970.

— with files from Bloomberg

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