Factory workers at General Motors have voted overwhelmingly to approve a new four-year contract with the company that has profit-sharing instead of pay raises for most workers and promises thousands of new jobs.
The United Auto Workers union said Wednesday that 65 percent of production workers voted for the deal, while 63 percent of skilled-trades workers such as electricians were in favor. Voting by GM's 48,500 blue-collar workers ended on Wednesday.
GM was the first company to reach a deal with the union, which is now negotiating with Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC. The GM pact is a template for the other companies, but there will be differences. The deal sets the pay and benefits for more than 112,000 auto workers nationwide, and it also sets the bar for pay at foreign-owned auto plants in the U.S., auto parts supply companies and for other manufacturing businesses.
Under the deal, which runs through September of 2015, most of the workers won't get annual pay raises. But they'll get $5,000 signing bonuses, profit-sharing checks and other payments that total at least $11,500 during the next four years. GM also promised to add at least 5,100 jobs and reopen an assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tenn.
Entry-level workers who now make a base wage of around $15.78 per hour will get 22 percent raises to $19.28. GM currently has about 1,900 entry-level workers who make about half the pay of longtime UAW members.
Pressure is now on for Ford and Chrysler to reach agreements with the union. A top Ford negotiator said Monday that he was optimistic about reaching a deal by the end of this week. UAW President Bob King is involved in the talks at Ford, the union has said.
Negotiations with Chrysler also are continuing.
King said in a statement that the union stopped GM from getting any more concessions and was able to improve health care benefits in the contract. GM and the union reached agreement on Sept. 16.
The deal also includes offers for older employees to leave so it can hire new ones at entry-level wage. Eligible workers can get up to $10,000 if they retire within the next two years. There's also a $65,000 bonus for skilled-trades workers if they retire or leave the company between Nov. 1 and March 31.
GM executives will tout cost savings from the contract in a conference call with industry analysts Wednesday afternoon. Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson wrote in a note to investors that he expects GM to highlight long-term savings from paying new hires less money as older workers retire.
Shares of GM fell 19 cents to $21 in afternoon trading as the broader markets declined. The shares have fallen 36 percent since GM's initial public stock offering at $33 per share in November.