UAW and General Motors bargainers were at it until around 3 a.m. Thursday before recessing and resuming talks midmorning.
The late night is a positive sign but not assurance that a deal is imminent. Only the subcommittees were bargaining. The top bargainers had not reconvened at the main table by late morning Thursday.
This is the fourth week since 46,000 GM union workers went on a nationwide strike at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 16. Monday, GM made a contract proposal to the union.
Colin Lightbody, a former labor negotiator for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said the long session appears to be a step in the right direction but not a slam dunk.
"It's usually the main table you want to see go deep into the evening," Lightbody said. "But the fact that subcommittees are meeting into early morning hours is a good sign."
Lightbody was FCA's director of labor economics until he retired in 2018. He is president of HR & Labor Guru, a consulting firm in Windsor, Ontario. He spent 20 years with FCA and worked on five national negotiations in the USA and seven in Canada with its autoworker unions.
"It's my understanding that the UAW has not responded to GM's latest contract offer that was tabled on Monday morning," he said. "At this stage of the game, one would expect that if the parties are closing in on a deal that offers and counteroffers would be traded every few hours, not every few days."
He said he remains positive because "at least the two parties are still talking."
The prolonged strike is taking a toll on GM, strikers and the related community. An analysis by the Anderson Economic Group estimates that as many as 100,000 workers have been laid off, face pay reductions or have otherwise been hurt by the strike.
Some car dealers reported difficulty getting parts to repair cars. Striking workers get by on $250 a week from the UAW strike fund.
One of the remaining issues is a critical and complex one to solve: job security. The UAW wants assurance that GM will build vehicles, especially gasoline-powered cars, in U.S. plants.
GM pays a far greater labor cost in the USA than it does in Mexico. To be viable and competitive, the company said, it must build some vehicles in Mexico. Manufacturing UAW workers in the USA start at $17 an hour and can earn $28 after eight years.
The union was angered in November when GM said it would not assign new vehicles to two U.S. assembly plants, Lordstown in Ohio and Detroit-Hamtramck, and no work for transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and Baltimore. Lordstown and the transmission plants are idled; Detroit-Hamtramck is to operate at a reduced level until January
Late Tuesday, the UAW's lead negotiator with General Motors, Terry Dittes, told union members in a letter that GM has not shown a "solid commitment" to building vehicles in U.S. factories.
"On day 23 of our strike, this still remains as one of our top agenda items with little progress to report," Dittes said.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: UAW and GM talks intensify as negotiators meet until late hours