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GM-UAW strike enters 3rd day; automaker ends health coverage

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Sept. 18 (UPI) — A walkout involving tens of thousands of unionized workers at General Motors entered its third day Wednesday, following negotiations that have yet to produce a new labor deal.

The strike began Monday between the automaker and nearly 50,000 workers represented by the United Auto Workers union, but negotiations for a new agreement have been going for nearly two years.

Two of the major sticking points are pay and healthcare. The Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday that GM has offered two pay increases of 2 percent and two lump-sum payments as part of a new four-year contract.

“Two percent is nothing,” one union leader told the Free Press. “We have not gained back anything we gave up during the bankruptcy.”

GM had called for employees to pay 15 percent of their healthcare expenses — a substantial increase over what UAW workers are now paying, but below the national average of 28 percent. Other sticking points include GM’s use of temporary workers.

The union leader said the workers want a pay increase that will offset any increase in health costs. Tuesday, General Motors said it has ended healthcare coverage for the striking employees.

The walkout began after contract talks broke down Sunday following 18 months of negotiations.

“We understand strikes are difficult and disruptive to families,” the automaker said in a statement. “While on strike, some benefits shift to being funded by the union’s strike fund, and in this case hourly employees are eligible for union-paid COBRA so their health care benefits can continue.”

The ongoing strike is coming at a steep cost for General Motors. By late Tuesday, it had lost production of more than 15,000 vehicles and financial losses are estimated at $50 million per day.

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