Strike against GM nears three weeks

The main remaining issues in the negotiations between the United Auto Workers union and General Motors Co have narrowed to wages and pensions. Meanwhile the strike continues, nearing three weeks.

The GM strike began on Sept. 16 with the 48,000 UAW members seeking higher pay, greater job security, a bigger share of the leading U.S. automaker’s profit and protection of healthcare benefits. The sides have been meeting daily and talks continued on Saturday.

One of the major remaining issues includes the UAW’s desire to reduce the time it takes newer hires to earn the top wage scale of about $31 an hour from the current eight-year period. Another issue is a desire by the union for a higher pension payout.

However, there is a much bigger issue standing in the background: electric cars.

UAW members’ anxieties and uncertainties are actually shared by GM and most other automakers, which know that it’s no longer a question of when internal combustion engine cars will be replaced by electric vehicles, but how quickly the changeover will take place.

The shift to electric means a fundamental transformation of what workers will do and how many are needed to do it. Electric cars have far fewer parts, which means far fewer people are needed to put them together.

That said, talks could be nearing a resolution as the dispute is taking a toll on both the automaker and striking UAW workers, whose individual compensation of $250 a week from the union strike fund is a fraction of their normal pay. LMC Automotive estimated on Thursday GM has lost production of 118,000 vehicles through Oct. 2.