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GM vows to boost jobs next year despite EV shift

Sep 11, 2023

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) - General Motors said Friday it plans to boost employment next year despite concerns raised by autoworkers that the shift to electric vehicles will reduce labor needs.

GM, Ford Motor and Chrysler-parent Stellantis last month opened contract talks with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union ahead of the Sept. 14 expiration of the current four-year labor deals.

GM manufacturing chief, Gerald Johnson, said on Friday he did not agree it would need fewer workers for EV production.

"We actually expect our employment numbers to grow in 2024," Johnson said in a video message.

Last year, Ford said EVs, which are simpler and have fewer mechanical parts, will require 40% less labor to build than current internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. GM has vowed to end the sale of new ICE vehicles by 2035.

Another key issue in the talks involves pay and treatment of workers at GM's joint venture battery plants.

Separately, CFRA Research on Friday downgraded GM on concerns about a possible strike after the UAW sought large pay and benefit hikes. GM shares closed down 1% to $36.57.

Stellantis said on Friday it intends "to fairly reward our represented employees for their contributions to the success of the Company. However, it will be critical to find common ground that doesn’t jeopardize our ability to continue investing."

The UAW is seeking a pay hike of more than 40% over the life of the four-year contract, including an initial 20% hike upon ratification and 5% annual wage hikes starting in September 2024, according to sources and a copy of the proposal.

GM said on Thursday the UAW proposals "would threaten our ability to do what's right for the long-term benefit of the team."

The union is seeking substantial wage and benefit changes, including defined-benefit pensions for all workers and shorter work weeks.

It wants to make all temporary workers at U.S. automakers permanent, a substantial increase in paid time off and restore retiree health care benefits and cost of living adjustments. The UAW wants new limits on temporary workers and for them to receive profit sharing.

UAW President Shawn Fain on Tuesday expressed support for a 32-hour work week, down from the traditional 40 hours.

Sources said the union wants the companies to agree to the equivalent of a paid day-off per week, at a time of growing trials globally of a four-day working week.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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