DETROIT – General Motors has reinstated health care benefits for its 48,000 workers who are on strike as contract talks with the United Auto Workers come closer to a tentative deal that would end the work stoppage, which is now in its 11th day.
The automaker cut health-care coverage for union members last week, moving them to more expensive, temporary COBRA plans on Sept. 16, the first day of the strike.
GM said it was reinstating the coverage after realizing its change caused “significant confusion” among employees, according to a letter received by the UAW on Thursday. Some employees were unsure whether they had health benefits at all, according to interviews with workers and other media reports.
“GM is very concerned about the significant confusion caused around our employee’s health care coverage. Throughout this negotiation,”Scott Sandefur, GM – North America vice president of labor relations, wrote in the letter to UAW Vice President Terry Dittes. “GM has said that our number one focus was on the well-being of our employees. That remains the case today.”
Dittes, in response, called GM’s changes in health-care coverage “irresponsible,” saying the automaker is “toying with the lives of hundreds of thousands of our UAW families.”
“There is no doubt that public sentiment see these actions of GM as a shameful act!” Dittes wrote.
How fast the benefits resume will likely depend on the provider.