Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Gm, Union Talks Begin, Sides Extremely Far Apart on Issues / Local Talks Significant

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Gm, Union Talks Begin, Sides Extremely Far Apart on Issues / Local Talks Significant

Article excerpt

Contract negotiations between the Oklahoma City General Motors assembly plant and its union officially started Monday with an exchange of proposals characterized "extremely far apart."

No details of either proposal were released. Optimism of reaching an agreement by Sept. 14, when the current three-year contract expires, however, was voiced by Keith Campbell, United Auto Workers Local 1999 president.

"We feel we can reach an agreement at least by Sept. 14, if not sooner," Campbell said.

But the timing on local talks will be impacted by national negotiations, according to Campbell. If national talks are not settled by that date, chances are the local bargaining will slow down.

Local negotiations address such issues as shop work rules, while national negotiations address topics like pay and benefits packages. National negotiations are expected to formally begin July 24.

The local talks take on greater significance this year than any of the three previous negotiations, Campbell said.

"These are the most serious talks in our local's history," he said. "As many local presidents have said before me, the talks you are in right now are always the most important."

Several factors concern local union leaders:

- Union representatives have reported that local management has said the Oklahoma City plant can produce what it currently builds with as many as 1,000 fewer hourly workers. The plant has 5,760 such workers now.

While he has declined comment on the figures, Bryan Gibson, plant personnel manager, has said serious consideration has been given Japanese-style work rules. They would, he has said, result in fewer jobs.

Union representatives feel the needed cost cuts can be made without the drastic loss of jobs anticipated if the team concept is implemented.

Workers at team concept plants have more responsibility for quality, innovation and inspection and are allowed to stop the assembly line if they spot a problem. …

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