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Marathon GM Talks Recess

July 27, 1998

FLINT, Mich. (AP) _ Round-the-clock negotiations to settle the devastating strikes against General Motors Corp. ended early Monday without a settlement.

United Auto Workers Vice President Richard Shoemaker said the talks, which ran nonstop from Saturday to early Monday, would resume later Monday morning.

After a week of minimal talks, negotiations shifted into high gear with the surprise announcement Saturday that the automaker had agreed to return disputed stamping dies back to the Flint Metal Center on Sunday.

Twelve tractor-trailer rigs loaded with the dies lined up and entered the stamping plant at mid-afternoon. The drivers honked their air horns as about 200 strikers and supporters filled an intersection to cheer their arrival.

Most were optimistic that the dies’ return was more than symbolic.

``I think this will put an end to it,″ said Jeff Sloan, on strike from the Delphi Flint East parts plant across town. ``This is what started the war.″

It was the removal of the dies _ 27-ton, cast-iron pieces of equipment from which doors, fenders and other vehicular body parts are stamped _ that spurred the United Auto Workers to strike the plant June 5. A second strike was called June 11 at the Delphi plant, which makes spark plugs, filters and other parts.

``I think it is a good sign, but they’ve got a long ways to go,″ said Steve Jarrad, a striking GM truck driver at the plant. ``I’d like to see this come to an end. It’s been long enough.″

Negotiations continued from early Saturday through early Monday at both plants. GM spokesman Pete Ternes said there was some progress made at the stamping plant, but that it was coming slowly.

``They went all night with recesses at various times. A recess usually means that they’re reviewing proposals from one side the other,″ he said.

High-level talks also continued at a nearby hotel. Top UAW and GM leaders were there, including UAW President Stephen Yokich, Vice President Richard Shoemaker and GM personnel Vice President Gerald Knechtel.

``It’s clear that there has been progress made, and that, of course, puts you on the right track,″ Shoemaker said of the talks late Saturday.

Saturday’s announcement of the dies’ return coincided with the end of an independent arbitrator’s hearing to determine if the strikes violated the UAW-GM national contract, as the company alleges. The parties declined to comment on the four-day hearing, and arbitrator Thomas L. Roberts did not say when he would release his ruling.

In fact, there was speculation that a settlement could come before Roberts makes his decision known, which could render it moot.

Knechtel said GM was still pushing for a comprehensive settlement that also included resolution of disputes at two brake plants in Dayton, Ohio, a stamping plant in Indianapolis, and the Buick City complex in Flint.

Separate disputes at the Saturn car plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., the Chevrolet Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Ky., and at a truck plant in Janesville, Wis., were not on the table in Flint.

The strikes have idled about 192,900 GM employees in North America, in addition to the 9,200 strikers. It also has idled 27 of GM’s 29 major, wholly owned assembly plants and more than 100 parts plants.

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