G.M. Chief Meets With Union Officials for First Time in Strike

G.M. Chief Meets With Union Officials for First Time in Strike

There were smiles and handshakes between union leaders and the General Motors chief executive, Mary T. Barra, when contract talks started in July. On Wednesday, with talks stalled and G.M. plants idled for more than three weeks by a nationwide strike, Ms. Barra sat down with the union again.

At G.M.’s initiative, Ms. Barra met for nearly an hour with the United Auto Workers president, Doug Jones, and the union’s lead negotiator, Terry Dittes, according to two people close to the contract negotiations.

They said the meeting was held at the Renaissance Center, the Detroit office complex where the negotiations are taking place, and was the first time Ms. Barra had met face to face with union officials since the ceremonial opening of the contract talks. G.M.’s headquarters are in the same complex.

The meeting was first reported by The New York Post.

The two people close to the negotiations would not characterize the substance or tone of the meeting with Ms. Barra or say whether it had helped bridge differences. But they said that some negotiators worked past midnight that night, and that the two sides were talking into the evening on Thursday.

They said Ms. Barra was accompanied Wednesday by Scott Sandefur, G.M.’s vice president for North American labor relations, and Gerald Johnson, executive vice president for global manufacturing.

The meeting came after Mr. Dittes declared in a letter to members on Sunday that the negotiations had “taken a turn for the worse” and that the union “could not be more disappointed in General Motors.”

The company presented the union with a contract proposal on Monday but by Wednesday had not received the comprehensive counterproposal it had hoped for, the two people close to the negotiations said. The union wants G.M. to make firm commitments to producing future vehicles in United States plants, but says the company has resisted doing so.

“The lack of commitment by G.M. to our U.A.W.-G.M. locations has weighed heavily on all of us trying to get the best contract for you and your families,” Mr. Dittes said in a letter sent to union members on Tuesday. “We have made it clear that there is no job security for us when G.M. products are made in other countries for the purpose of selling them here in the U.S.A.”

In the first eight months of this year, G.M. made nearly 600,000 vehicles in Mexico, about a third of its North American output, according to data compiled by Automotive News. About 80 percent of the vehicles it builds in Mexico are sold in the United States. The U.A.W. would like G.M. to move some production from Mexico to fill idled plants in the United States.

G.M. entered the talks hoping to reduce its health care costs and limit increases in wages and benefits. The company’s labor costs, including wages, benefits and other associated costs, are about $63 an hour, compared with $50 an hour in nonunion plants operated by foreign automakers in Southern states.

The company has offered to invest $7 billion in United States factories as part of a new labor contract.

The union is hoping to improve pay and benefits for temporary workers and more recent hires, who are on a pay scale that offers no prospect of reaching the top U.A.W. wage of $31 an hour. It points out that G.M. has been earning record profits in North America, including $35 billion in the last three years, yet has closed three United States plants, and is set to close a fourth in January.

The strike, the longest that G.M. has faced in half a century, has shut 34 manufacturing locations in seven states. The strike has produced $1.1 billion in losses for G.M. so far, according to the Anderson Economic Group in East Lansing, Mich.

The walkout is also taking a toll on workers, who are subsisting on stipends of $250 a week from the U.A.W. “It’s not easy, but I had some money put away in case there was a strike,” said Ted Allen, 39, a single father of two 9-year olds.

Mr. Allen lost his job when G.M. shut its car factory in Lordstown, Ohio, this year. He was scheduled to transfer to another plant in Lansing, Mich., but the move has been held up by the strike.

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