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GM Faces Another Strike Deadline

June 11, 1998

DETROIT (AP) _ On the eve of another strike deadline at a crucial General Motors Corp. parts plant, the United Auto Workers warned the automaker that it faces more lost production if it doesn’t settle their disputes soon.

Talks were to resume today at the Flint Metal Center stamping plant as a strike entered its seventh day. GM faced a 7 p.m. deadline at another parts plant, Delphi Flint East, where separate talks also have been held daily.

No progress was reported in either negotiations.

The stamping plant strike has halted production at seven GM assembly plants, partially closed three parts plants, and caused the layoffs of more than 18,000 workers in Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, New Jersey and Ontario, Canada.

If Flint East goes down, the effects could be even broader and more devastating. The plant makes dashboard instruments and a variety of other parts used in nearly every GM vehicle made in North America.

``If GM management wants to prevent this situation from affecting more production, now is the time to deal with the specific issues at Flint ... not to continue evading problems by claiming the union is at fault,″ Richard Shoemaker, a UAW vice president, said Wednesday.

While work rules and health and safety issues are under negotiation, the underlying issue is jobs. GM wants to reduce its work force further in the name of competitiveness, while the union is fighting to preserve as many jobs and members as possible.

GM and the UAW have been at odds for years over staffing at its U.S. plants, many of which have been modernized to require fewer workers. GM has reduced its work force largely through attrition, which the union says has left some plants understaffed and unsafe.

The strike in Flint, which has lost about 50,000 GM jobs over the past two decades, has revived the debate over GM’s commitment to its home country and its U.S. workers as it increases its global reach.

``The local unions in this region have bent over backwards to improve quality and efficiency, even though again and again the consequence has been closed plants, sold operations and lost jobs because of management blunders in other areas,″ Rubin Burks, director of the UAW region that includes Flint, said in a statement Wednesday.

UAW leaders criticize GM for what they say is a policy of transferring jobs, technology and capital to Mexico, China, Thailand and other low-wage countries.

GM defends its globalization effort: ``It is fundamental to our business and a fact of life,″ Donald E. Hackworth, vice president in charge of GM’s North American Car Group, said last week. ``The Daimler-Chrysler merger is just one more example of this.″

A report Wednesday in The Oakland Press in suburban Detroit said internal GM documents show the automaker plans to double its production in Mexico over the next decade. Most of the vehicles would be exported to the United States.

GM declined to comment.

``GM has a responsibility to the work force here, to the communities here and to this nation to handle themselves differently than they are, and if they don’t these confrontations are going to continue,″ the UAW’s Shoemaker warned.

The strike and assembly plant closures also were affecting GM suppliers. Lear Corp. closed seat plants in Warren and Fenton, Mich., and partly closed its Whitby, Ontario, plant this week, spokesman Tony De Lorenzo said.

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