DETROIT - The United Auto Workers set a deadline of 11 a.m. this morning to strike General Motors Corp. if a new contract is not reached, even as the two sides continued bargaining late last night, according to a local union website.
The deadline to reach an agreement posted on the website of United Auto Workers Local 160 in Warren.
Talks were continuing as of 11 p.m. last night, GM spokesman Dan Flores said. GM said in a statement last night that it is working with the union to resolve differences.
"The contract talks involve complex, difficult issues that affect the job security of our US workforce and the longterm viability of the company," said the statement, posted on a GM website. "We are fully committed to working with the UAW to develop solutions together to address the competitive challenges facing General Motors. We will continue focusing our efforts on reaching an agreement as soon as possible."
Union president Ron Gettelfinger said as recently as Friday that the union was trying to accelerate negotiations and reach an agreement without a strike.
The union appears to be trying to ratchet up pressure on GM to get a deal done.
The United Auto Workers' contract with GM was set to expire Sept. 14, but the union has been extending it on an hour-by-hour basis since then.
A local union official said earlier yesterday that negotiators have completed work on most issues, and they were determining how much money GM must put into a trust fund for retiree healthcare that will be managed by the United Auto Workers.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.
The healthcare fund - known as a Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association - would be a groundbreaking change for the auto industry and has been the major issue in this year's negotiations.
GM has about $51 billion in unfunded retiree healthcare costs, but the company is not required to put the full amount into the fund. The union and GM have been wrangling over how much GM should put in and how much can be paid in stock.
The United Auto Workers picked GM as the lead company and potential strike target in the negotiations, which began in July. Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC have indefinitely extended their contracts with the union.
GM, which has about 339,000 United Auto Workers' retirees and spouses, wants to pay the union to form the healthcare fund to get healthcare liabilities off its books. In exchange, the United Auto Workers union has sought production guarantees at US plants.
The United Auto Workers represents 73,000 GM workers at 82 US facilities nationwide.
If a tentative agreement is reached, local union leaders will meet for a briefing and then present it to their members.
Any agreement would have to be ratified by a majority of GM's union members.