GM and the UAW Spar Over Health Care, Revealing Tension in Talks


(Bloomberg) -- It looked like General Motors Co. and the United Auto Workers were making some progress toward ending a strike this week, but a spat over health care for striking workers suggests there’s still plenty of tension at the bargaining table hashing out a new contract.

GM has decided to reinstate company-funded medical benefits for all workers after suspending them on Sept. 17, when management directed hourly employees to sign up for union-funded Cobra plan for the duration of the strike. That move to pull health care benefits outraged union members and UAW Vice President Terry Dittes, the chief bargainer at the table with GM, had urged the company to reinstate its plan through the end of the month.

But when GM did just that on Thursday, Dittes responded with a tough-worded letter that was hardly welcoming.

“There is no doubt that public sentiment see these actions of GM as a shameful act!” Dittes wrote in a letter to GM management dated Sept. 26. “Finally, it is time for GM to come to the bargaining table with an offer that reflects the hard work of our Members who make you successful and will settle this strike on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of UAW families, and stop toying with our families’ health and well-being,” said the letter, which the union made public.

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