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Tentative Agreement Reached in GM Strike

March 22, 1996

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) _ A settlement between General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers awaits a vote by striking employees who brought the world’s top automaker to a near standstill in the company’s longest walkout in 26 years.

The 18-day strike has idled more than 177,000 GM workers.

The 2,700 striking members of UAW Local 696 vote this morning on the deal, signed by the union and GM on Thursday after days of intense, marathon negotiations. Union leaders said they would recommend members approve the accord.

Striking worker Jerry Bocock, who was on the picket line outside the Delphi Chassis Brake plant when the agreement was announced, said he will probably vote for it.

``I’m sure they wouldn’t let us stand out in the cold here for nothing,″ said Bocock, 51, of Vandalia. ``I feel confident that they probably got a good settlement.″

The strike at two Dayton brake plants forced GM to shut down 26 of its 29 assembly plants and 18 parts plants in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The walkout also halted work at many independent suppliers.

If ratified, the Dayton plants could resume production today, company officials said. The six GM assembly plants in Michigan were expected to resume production Monday, The Detroit News reported today.

GM declined to discuss terms of the agreement or say whether it addresses the main point of contention: GM’s practice of buying parts from outside manufacturers. The union says it’s a job-killer, but GM has said it allows the company to stay competitive, which saves jobs.

The New York Times, citing someone close to the negotiations, reported today that the pact would give GM some flexibility in giving work to outside manufacturers.

The settlement also allows for some additional hiring at the brake plants, published reports said. The Dayton Daily News said GM’s parts-buying deal was a key concession, and that union sources said the contract provided improvements in worker safety and health.

The automaker assured the UAW it would add at least 300 jobs at the Dayton plants over the next five to seven years, The Detroit News reported today, citing a company source. But work force attrition during that period likely will reduce the net gain in jobs to fewer than 50.

The UAW will be assured of jobs as GM develops a future brake system to replace a system now built at Dayton, the Detroit Free Press reported today.

Local 696 President Joe Hasenjager declined to discuss the agreement Thursday but hinted that he feels the union made its point.

``We were able to shut down many plants,″ he said. ``We knew that we had some strength, but not to that magnitude.″

Dan Warrell, manager of the two striking plants, said the negotiations were ``pretty tough.″

``We’re very happy with the agreement, and we’re ready to go forward,″ he said.

Fallout from the walkout spread so quickly through the company’s operations because of another management practice designed to cut costs _ just-in-time inventory.

Rather than keep costly warehouses and months of supplies on hand, manufacturers like GM plan on receiving supplies to match production schedules. When there are disruptions of vital parts, like brakes, assembly lines quickly run out of supplies and have to close down.

Car buyers were largely unaffected; GM had an 82-day supply.

The strike, which began March 5, is the longest by the UAW since 1970, when a national walkout lasted 68 days, from Sept. 14 to Nov. 20.

The agreement came a day after the Clinton administration began talking about getting involved. Labor Secretary Robert Reich offered to send federal mediators to help end the walkout.

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