Local GM Workers Vote on Union Contract Changes

Plan includes buyout and retirement offers, as well as other cost-cutting measures.

As a General Motors Corp. bankruptcy looks all but certain, union workers at the company's Arlington assembly plant are voting on contract changes.

The United Auto Workers union reached a tentative agreement with the automaker last week. The plan was presented to plant-level union leaders Tuesday.

It includes new buyout offers to nearly all UAW workers, the Detroit Free Press reported. Buyout offers range from $45,000 to $115,000, based on years of employment, plus a $25,000 vehicle voucher.The retirement packages include a $25,000 vehicle voucher and $20,000 for production employees or $45,000 for skilled employees.

The contract changes also reduce health care benefits for retirees, ends cost-of-living adjustments, cuts the Easter Monday holiday next year and in 2011, suspends performance bonuses this year and next and makes changes to vacation and overtime policies.

And while an earlier GM plan to reduce debt had the union's health care trust getting a 39 percent stake in the company, the trust will get only 20 percent under the contract changes.

On its Web site Detroit Free Press has a copy of the agreement between GM and UAW that union members are voting on.

Arlington union workers vote on the plan Wednesday. The polls close at midnight.

Meanwhile, bondholders rejected Wednesday a proposal to swap bond debt for company stock. GM withdrew the offer after less than the needed 90 percent of bondholders got on board.

The U.S. government had ordered the company to come up with a plan that 90 percent of bondholders would agree to, but only allowed GM to offer 10 percent of its stock.

But bondholders, who are owed about $27 billion, the largest chunk of GM's roughly $58 billion in debt, had wanted a 58 percent stake in exchange for their debt.

A person familiar with discussions between GM and the government told The Associated Press any bankruptcy filing would probably come around the government's Monday deadline for GM to finish restructuring or enter court protection. The person asked not to be identified because the talks are private.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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