Agreement Reached in GM Strike

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DAYTON, Ohio: Workers from two GM brake plants voted to accept management's offer, bringinging to an end an 18-day strike that had crippled the world's largest automaker. The vote was nearly unanimous, with 99 percent of the strikers voting in favor of the pact. The walkout had forced GM to close 26 of its 29 North American assembly plants and 18 parts plants. In all, 177,375 GM workers were furloughed. The main issue in dispute was outsourcing -- the production of parts by outside companies. The union claimed that practice will cost jobs. The company argued that outsourcing is necessary in order to remain competitive. TIME's Joseph R. Szczesny says the agreement apparently preserves GM's ability to outsource some work. In exchange, the union received concessions on safety and health issues, as well as a promise to hire more workers for the two plants. Employees there had been working six- and seven-day weeks to meet production needs. Wages were not an issue. Szczesny reports that the negotiated settlement follows a precedent set by several previous strikes, and will not necessarily set the terms for industry- wide labor negotiations this fall. "Mostly, it added to the tension between GM and the union," he said today, and assembly plants could re-open beginning on Monday.