Thousands of General Motors workers are set to strike in the first auto industry walkout in more than a decade, after talks broke down over pay and healthcare benefits at the company’s US factories.
The United Auto Workers called for a strike starting at midnight on Sunday as union leaders demanded GM “recognise the contributions” workers have made to “create a healthy, profitable industry”.
The decision came after a breakdown in talks in Detroit for a new four-year labour contract and as workers and carmakers alike brace for a weaker economy. The UAW is asking GM’s nearly 46,000 US factory workers to stop working until further notice. It would be the UAW’s first strike against GM since 2007.
In the wake of the financial crisis, unions had given the big carmakers concessions in their contracts, such as cuts to their healthcare and pension bills, helping GM reduce costs as it clawed its way out of bankruptcy. GM and other large auto companies subsequently enjoyed years of robust growth.
But the outlook for car sales has turned darker in the past year amid rising costs, falling car sales and shifting consumer tastes. In the US, shoppers are increasingly looking to sports utility vehicles and pick-up trucks, while at the same time carmakers must invest in technologies such as electric and self-driving vehicles.