GM contract held up over retirement buyouts

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A majority of the 52,600 union workers at General Motors have voted in favor of a new four-year contract, but that wasn't enough to finalize a deal.

That's because one group of United Auto Workers members are holding out: Nearly 60% of the so-called skilled workers -- such as electricians and welders -- voted against the proposed pact.

Under UAW rules, the union leadership could declare the deal ratified since 55% of the overall workforce voted for it. That happened at Chrysler in 2011.

But the union could go back to the bargaining table with GM or even call for a strike.

One of the contract issues that has upset skilled workers is that they wouldn't be eligible for a $60,000 retirement buyout being offered to 4,000 production line workers.

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UAW leaders will hold meetings with the skilled workers this coming week before deciding on the next step.

GM (GM) said it is hopeful the deal will still be approved.

"General Motors is pleased that a majority of UAW-represented employees recognize the benefits of the 2015 UAW-GM national agreement and voted in favor of it," the company said.

Two weeks ago, the UAW won ratification of a new contract with Fiat Chrysler (FCAM) on a second try. And union officials and Ford Motor (F) reached a tentative agreement Friday.

The UAW has had the advantage of negotiating at a time of especially strong car sales and profits. The industry is set to post record U.S. car sales in 2015.

GM recently reported a record operating profit in the third quarter, despite continued costs from its recall problems.

The GM deal would give veteran autoworkers their first raise in a decade. It includes a signing bonus, profit sharing plan, and other lump-sum payments likely to add up to tens of thousands of dollars for each worker over four years.

The deal also would, over eight years, close a pay gap between veteran workers and those hired since 2007, who were paid at a significantly lower pay scale.

The GM deal is more generous than the one that the UAW recently negotiated at Fiat Chrysler. For example, it calls for an $8,000 signing bonus instead of $4,000 bonuses at Fiat Chrysler.

But GM is doing better financially than Fiat Chrysler.

Details of the tentative Ford contract have yet to be released. But it is believed its terms are closer to those of the GM agreement than the deal at Fiat Chrysler.

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