GM workers at Texas plant await answers on contracts

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramFebruary 23, 2009 

A cloud of uncertainty hangs over workers at General Motors' Arlington assembly plant, and there is little officials of United Auto Workers Local 276 can do to make it clearer at the moment.

At week's end, GM and UAW representatives in Detroit were still negotiating terms of contract revisions as part of the restructuring plan the company is required to present the U.S. government to get additional loans.

So far, little in the way of factual information is being disseminated to union locals and workers, said Local 276 President J.R. Flores.

"We're not getting it straight from the UAW [international office]," Flores said in an interview Friday. "We'd like to see it in writing before we say anything."

Flores said he has been told that GM and union bargainers are trying to hammer out revisions to the health benefits plans for retirees that were set up in the contract negotiated in 2007.

Under the terms of the Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association (VEBA) healthcare trust, the UAW would take over responsibility for managing retirees' health benefits. GM agreed to finance the trust with a series of payments totaling at least $33 billion.

The arrangement, and similar plans negotiated with Chrysler and Ford, would allow the companies to take retirees' healthcare costs off their books.

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