UAW locals threaten strikes at five GM plants

DETROIT (Reuters) - United Auto Workers union locals at five General Motors CorpGM.N plants have served notice with the automaker that they could strike if progress is not made in reaching plant-specific contracts within days.

GM reached a four-year national contract with the UAW last year, but has not yet reached local agreements with most of the more than 70 union locals representing individual facilities on issues such as work rules.

GM said it had received the notices from UAW locals representing assembly plants in Arlington, Texas; Flint, Michigan; and the Lansing-Delta Township plant in Michigan.

A stamping plant in Parma, Ohio, and a transmission plant in Warren, Michigan, also have delivered a five-day notice that precedes an official strike warning, GM spokesman Dan Flores said. The strike warning also carries a five-day notice period under the union’s terms with the automaker.

Separately, Flores said GM had reached agreement with the UAW at the national level on what many analysts had seen as the most contentious issue remaining -- how many positions at each U.S. facility would be open to lower-wage new hires.

GM and the UAW had agreed not to disclose the number of those positions at the facilities, Flores said.

Under its national contract with the UAW, GM won the flexibility to hire replacement workers at wages starting at $14 per hour -- roughly half the current average -- outside the main production roles in its plants.

GM has offered buyouts to all of its roughly 77,000 UAW-represented workers to cut costs and make room for the lower-cost new hires. However, union workers have said fewer people are accepting the payouts and early retirement offers this time than had taken a similar round of buyouts in 2006 when some 34,000 opted to leave the payroll.

GM's Parma stamping plant already has been partly idled by a UAW strike against GM supplier and former subsidiary American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings.AXL.N

A portion of the Flint plant making full-size pickup trucks has been idled by the American Axle strike, which began February 26. Another part of the plant making commercial trucks such as the Chevrolet Kodiak remains in operation, Flores said.

GM’s assembly plant in Arlington makes full-size SUVs such as the Chevrolet Tahoe, an area of the automaker’s line-up where production already has been hit hard by parts shortages due to the American Axle strike.

GM’s Delta Township plant makes the Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia crossovers. Sales of those models have held up better than GM’s trucks and SUVs in the current downturn in overall U.S. sales.

Some 3,650 UAW-represented workers at American Axle remain on strike in a separate dispute that has idled or partly idled 30 GM facilities in North America.

Reporting by Kevin Krolicki; editing by Carol Bishopric