DETROIT, AUG. 28 -- General Motors Corp. today presented its second contract proposal to the United Auto Workers and the union promptly rejected it, saying it made workers "scapegoats."
"The people who presented the proposal don't think very highly of it," said Donald F. Ephlin, UAW vice president and the union's chief bargainer in the GM talks.
Ephlin, who spoke to reporters at GM headquarters shortly after the union team received the three-year proposal, said the problems the auto maker faces are largely beyond the control of workers and stem from management decisions. "GM is not going to solve the problem by having the hourly workers become the scapegoats," he said.
The union's 23-member board will meet Monday to pick either GM or Ford as a strike target. The UAW traditionally seeks to negotiate a contract at one company and then pressures the other to follow suit.
Contracts covering 375,000 hourly GM workers and 104,000 hourly Ford employes both expire at 11:59 p.m. EDT Sept. 14.
Ford's initial offer was presented to union bargainers Thursday.
Ephlin said today that he would recommend that GM be the strike target. "Maybe we could focus on the issues a little better," he said, adding that a "totally one-sided proposition is hardly the way to get together."
Alfred S. Warren Jr., GM's vice president in charge of the industry relations staff, said the proposal "should provide the basis for a peaceful settlement which is equitable to all parties and helps to make General Motors more competitive in the marketplace."
He said the offer included wage and benefit improvements and greater job security. The proposal also would establish a new committee providing for union participation in corporate decisions affecting UAW members, Warren said.
GM's goal, Warren said, "is to reach agreement without any interruption to our workforce or production." He said GM's labor costs for U.S. hourly workers are $18 billion this year, including wages and benefits