General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers today tentatively settled disputes at two strike-bound parts plants but still sought an overall deal to end a crippling walkout against the nation's largest automaker.
Negotiators for both sides resolved issues at the parts plants in Flint, and two other locations, but worked on the final details of a comprehensive settlement to end disputes at two brake plants in Dayton, Ohio, union officials said."We want to be sure we have it all done before we have a news conference," UAW Vice President Richard Shoemaker said.
The automaker has insisted that any deal to end the Flint strikes must also resolve festering disputes in Dayton and Indianapolis. GM has said it made no sense to settle the strikes in Flint and then face the potential of additional strikes.
Besides the two parts plants in Flint, issues at the Buick City complex in Flint and a stamping plant in Indianapolis were tentatively settled, said Cal Rapson, the UAW regional director in Flint.
The latest round of high-level talks began Monday morning and recessed shortly after 2 a.m. EDT today at a Holiday Inn on the outskirts of Flint. They resumed about 9 a.m.
Union officials set up a hotel meeting room for a news conference to announce a deal once it is reached.
"We're all hoping it's going to happen today," UAW spokesman Reg McGhee said earlier today.
UAW President Stephen Yokich, who generally had kept a low profile throughout the strikes, was seen talking to his staff and GM negotiators throughout Monday in and outside the hotel. GM also had some of its top executives there, including its chief financial officer, J. Michael Losh.
The framework for a settlement appeared to be shaping up. One proposal being discussed would have GM promise not to close the Delphi Flint East parts plant and two Delphi brake plants in Dayton, Ohio, for up to five years.
In exchange, the UAW would agree to a four-year national contract in 1999, rather than the traditional three-year pact, said sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. But that proposal remained under discussion and was still subject to change, a union source emphasized.
The talks are complicated by GM's insistence on settling the three pending disputes. About 9,200 workers went on strike June 5 at the Flint Metal Center stamping plant, and at Delphi Flint East six days later.
There were indications that a major dispute that prompted the first strike, GM's decision to stop investing in the Flint Metal Center, had been resolved. One source said the UAW agreed to help improve productivity at the plant to a set level in exchange for $180 million in new equipment.
The marathon sessions began Saturday, the final day of a four-day arbitration hearing to consider GM's complaint that the strikes were illegal. That has led to speculation that both sides fear the potential of an unfavorable ruling and are rushing to end the strikes before the arbitrator issues his decision, expected this week.
A ruling against the union could limit its ability to use strikes over local issues as leverage to bargain over broader investment issues, as GM alleges the UAW has done in Flint. GM also has said it may seek damages and an immediate back-to-work order if the strikes are ruled illegal.
If a strike settlement is reached soon, it could include an agreement that GM withdraw the grievance that went to arbitration and a related lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
The strikes have brought GM's North American assembly operations to a virtual halt and have cost the No. 1 automaker an estimated $2.2 billion in lost profits.
On Monday, GM reopened two assembly plants that had been idled last month due to a lack of parts from the Flint plants: the Chevrolet Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Ky., and a nonunion factory that makes full-size sport utility vehicles in Silao, Mexico.
The UAW has threatened to strike the Corvette plant, which is GM's only U.S. assembly plant still without a local contract 21 months after the automaker and union signed a three-year national agreement.