UAW and GM close in on tentative deal to end strike

United Auto Workers members on strike picket outside General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant on Sept. 18, 2019 in Detroit.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

DETROIT — The United Auto Workers union and General Motors are closing in on a tentative agreement that could soon end the union’s ongoing strike against the automaker.

Negotiators have been meeting daily since before the work stoppage began on Sept. 16. However, talks between the two sides have intensified in the past 24 to 48 hours, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.

A letter from UAW Vice President Terry Dittes to members on Wednesday confirmed progress has been made this week, as roughly 48,000 union workers picketed outside the automaker’s U.S. plants for the 10th day.

Dittes, in the letter, said all unsettled proposals are now at the “Main Table and have been presented to General Motors and we are awaiting their responses.” He said the “back and forth will continue until negotiations are complete.”

Having all of the issues at the “Main Table” and not in subcommittees is typically a sign that a tentative deal could be imminent as long as the talks don’t fall apart over any major sticking points. Depending on how far apart the sides are on the issues, such as pay and temporary workers, that could take hours or days, the sources said.

A deal is not expected to be reached tonight. Negotiators are expected to return to bargaining after a break tonight, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

“We will continue to bargain this contract until your Bargaining Committee is satisfied that we have achieved an Agreement that properly addresses our Members’ concerns,” Dittes said in the letter.

In response to the letter, GM said negotiators “continue to meet and our goal remains to reach an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our business.”

GM’s use of temporary workers and keeping plants open that have been slated for closure have been among the major sticking points, according to people familiar with the talks.

“The intensification of talks to around-the-clock bargaining and at the main table should mean that they’re in striking distance of reaching an agreement,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research. “But there’s still a long way to go once they reach that agreement.”

After a proposed deal is reached, the union has to take the agreement to the GM-UAW council, which includes local union leaders, and then to members to approve. That process typically takes two weeks; however, that could be expedited if the union decides to keep workers on strike during the voting.

Ratification of tentative agreements traditionally hasn’t been a problem. However, workers with Fiat Chrysler four years ago rejected the initial deal approved by UAW leaders — which sent negotiators back to the table.

Ahead of the current negotiations, industry analysts cautioned that the ratification of any agreement could be challenging as a federal corruption probe reaches into the UAW’s highest ranks.

UAW members with GM have been on strike since Sept. 16 after the two sides failed to reach a deal by a Sept. 14 deadline. It is the union’s first national strike against the automaker since a two-day work stoppage in 2007 and the longest national strike since the 1970s.

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