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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GM Making Progress In Talks With Union

DETROIT -- Contract talks between General Motors and the United Auto Workers union were expected to resume later Sunday after negotiators took a break Saturday, a person familiar with the talks said.

Negotiators for both sides adjourned the bargaining session at around 9 p.m. Saturday after making some progress.

Some union subcommittees, which handle issues such as pensions, benefits and job security, have wrapped up talks, but an agreement was not expected Saturday because negotiators were still dealing with some key issues, said a person who was briefed on the negotiations.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private, also confirmed that GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner was actively involved in the talks.

Several local union officials who have been in touch with bargainers said the outstanding issue was retiree health care expenses. GM wants the union to take over responsibility for retiree health care costs using a company-funded trust, and the union was asking for job guarantees in exchange for taking on the costs.

The local officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the talks.

GM's 73,000 U.S. autoworkers were without a contract as of midnight Friday and could go on strike at any time if negotiations break down.

Five of GM's 18 U.S. assembly plants were operating Saturday, Wickham said. Only two plants were scheduled to be running Sunday.

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said tensions often ran high when the union and the automakers got down to details.

"If there aren't some raised voices and sweaty palms, you're not doing your job," he said.

But Cole said he believed there was little chance of a strike. A short strike might not have much effect on GM but could backfire against the UAW if the public believes the it is asking for too much from a company that is struggling, Cole said.

This year's contract talks are considered crucial to the survival of GM and its U.S.-based counterparts, Ford Motor and Chrysler. Ford and Chrysler were also in talks over the weekend, but they extended their contracts with the UAW indefinitely Thursday after the union named GM the lead company in the negotiations. Once the union wraps up talks with GM, it will try to implement similar agreements at Ford and Chrysler.

All three companies want to cut what they say is about a $25 per hour labor cost gap with their Japanese competitors. The gap, the companies said, is one reason why the Detroit Three collectively lost about $15 billion last year, forcing them to restructure by shedding workers and closing factories.

AP, Reuters