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General Motors reinstates healthcare for striking UAW workers

By Clyde Hughes
General Motors reinstates healthcare for striking UAW workers
Members of the United Auto Workers union picket outside the General Motors'  plant in Arlington, Texas, on September 17. Photo by Larry Smith/EPA-EFE

Sept. 26 (UPI) -- General Motors agreed Thursday to reinstate healthcare coverage for nearly 50,000 striking members of the United Auto Workers union, who have now been off the job for 11 days.

The automotive giant ended coverage on the first day of the strike, Sept. 16. The topic is one of the major causes of the walkout, as GM forced workers to pay 15 percent of the cost.

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"[GM] has chosen to work with our providers to keep all benefits fully in place for striking hourly employees, so they have no disruption to their medical care, including vision, prescription and dental coverage," the automaker said Thursday.

"If they have an insurance claim, they should submit it. GM will continue to provide them the coverage they rely on given the circumstances."

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Nearly 50,000 UAW members nationwide have been off the job for more than a week, in the union's longest walkout opposing GM since 2007.

GM and UAW promised to resume negotiations after talks ended without an agreement Wednesday night.

Terry Dittes, vice president of UAW's General Motors division, told members in a letter "all unsettled proposals are now at the main table."

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"We will continue to bargain the contract until your bargaining committee is satisfied that we have achieved an agreement that properly addresses our members' concerns," the letter said.

"Our goal remains to reach an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our business," GM spokesman David Barnas said.

GM hinted Wednesday that talks may be nearing an agreement when it contacted delivery companies about trailer and driver availability. It was the automaker's first communication with the companies since the strike began.

"Although we are not sure as to when the UAW strike will end, it is a good idea to start the conversation of preparedness," Leslie Woods, manager of GM Quality Carrier Management for Ryder System, said in a letter to the delivery companies.

Negotiators from both sides have met daily, including weekends, since the walkout started. The strike is UAW's longest since 1985, when workers spent 12 days picketing at Chrysler plants.

GM has so far offered 2 percent pay raises in two of the next four years and a 2 percent lump sum in the other two years. The last union contract, though, guaranteed 3 percent raises and 4 percent lump-sum payments in alternate years.

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