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UAW Says Letter on U.S. Involvement in GM Talks Was ‘Misprint’

A United Auto Workers official who was quoted in a letter to members as saying that a U.S. official was “in the room” during labor contract negotiations with General Motors Co. called the report a “misprint.”

The editor of a newsletter to members of UAW Local 598 erroneously wrote that a representative of the U.S., GM’s largest shareholder, was observing the talks, said Dana Rouse, the local’s shop committee chairman and a member of the Detroit-based union’s national bargaining team with the automaker.

“That was a misprint,” Rouse said in a phone interview. “I didn’t get to proofread it. It went out and then I said ‘Where did you get that from?’ I mean, I talked about us still being under government, but nothing as far as they were sitting there.”

The U.S., GM and union leaders have maintained that the government is a hands-off shareholder that doesn’t interfere with the automaker’s operations and had no role in union negotiations.

GM, 32 percent-owned by the U.S. Treasury Department, has said its labor costs will rise 1 percent annually under the four-year accord ratified by a two-to-one majority of UAW members on Sept. 28. The union had agreed not to strike Detroit-based GM as part of its 2009 U.S.-backed bankruptcy.

‘Observing’ Talks

“With the option of strike off the table and the government still a part of our negotiations (literally sitting in the room with us ‘observing’ our talks), I don’t believe any better agreement could have been reached,” Rouse was quoted as saying in the newsletter.

GM has said its new labor contract will cost the company $215 million over the next three years as it raises wages for entry-level employees and buys out its most expensive workers. The pay boost for those members, plus $5,000 signing bonuses and other benefits add up to $675 million in costs through 2013, according to a Sept. 28 company presentation. GM got $460 million in savings to partially offset those cost increases.

“The government was not involved in our 2011 negotiations,” Kim Carpenter, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

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