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Ratification next step for 4-year GM-UAW contract

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and the UAW shook hands on a four-year contract late Friday, giving GM's rank and file their first pay raises in eight years. While terms of the General Motors-UAW deal weren't immediately disclosed, Reuters reported that 48,500 unionized GM workers would get $5,000 "signing bonuses" and that at least 570 laid-off workers would be re-employed.

Auto workers are glad there was no drama attached to the 2011 negotiations. The UAW is saying, in broad terms, that pensions and health care programs either were improved or remained no worse than they are now.

"You didn't hear anything about any adversarial disagreements at the bargaining table," Tim Shoup, who has worked for General Motors at Flint Truck Assembly for almost 40 years, told the Flint Journal in an interview today.

"It seems like they've cut costs and productivity has improved a lot and there seems to be a greater cooperation between the union and management than there was years back. There seems to be greater give and take."

Settling this contract with the UAW as quickly as possible made sense for General Motors, which is enjoying a financial boon. GM earned $4.7 billion last year, its best annual showing in 11 years. And so far this year the Detroit automaker has turned a $5.7 billion profit. The union and the company both want to keep that momentum going. GM stock closed Friday at $22.61 a share.

Union contracts are still being negotiated with the two other members of the Detroit Three, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat's Chrysler Group. Including GM's crew, there are 112,000 U.S. auto workers from the three American companies who work under the aegis of the UAW. The union's negotiations with GM began in July and concluded in under two months, two days after the old contract was extended.

Auto workers like John Harris remain skittish. Until the details come out, he's going to be nervous about the big picture.

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