Originally created 07/09/98

Progress reported in GM strike talks



FLINT, Mich. -- Signs of progress have begun emerging from talks between General Motors Corp. and auto workers as the end of a summer vacation shutdown nears and the company faces the prospect that strike losses will begin piling up again.

Talks resumed Wednesday morning after running late into the night Tuesday, a marked change to the daily banker's hours negotiators had been keeping since the first strike began June 5.

Richard Shoemaker, the United Auto Workers vice president in charge of GM relations, said negotiations had become "more focused" but that major issues remained on the tables.

"There was some progress made," Shoemaker said. "There's still a lot of issues that have to be resolved and a lot of work to be done."

GM spokeswoman Mary Irby said the automaker was pleased the talks ran long. "They wouldn't have met that long if it weren't for good reason," she said.

The negotiations have intensified as GM nears the end of its two-week summer vacation shutdown. There has been speculation GM is pushing for a settlement by Friday so the parts plants can resume production by Monday.

Since the company already had planned to be down for the vacation shutdown, the losses from the strike will not begin accruing again until Monday.

Even if the strikes were settled this week, it would take several days for the parts pipeline to be filled and for the first of 26 strike-idled assembly plants across North America to resume production.

The strikes are the costliest for the No. 1 automaker since a 67-day walkout in 1970. GM's strike-related losses through the start of the vacation shutdown totaled $1.18 billion.

The Flint strikes, involving about 9,200 workers, were called over staffing levels, work rules and health and safety issues at the Flint Metal Center and Delphi Flint East, which makes instrument clusters, spark plugs and other engine parts.

About 161,600 GM workers at assembly and parts plants throughout North America remained idled by the strikes.