© Reuters. A “UAW On Strike” sign is seen during a rally outside the shuttered GM Lordstown Assembly plant during the United Auto Workers national strike in Lordstown, Ohio

DETROIT (Reuters) – General Motors Co (N:) and the union that represents its 48,000 striking hourly workers in the United States have made progress in talks toward a new deal but are grappling with the pay and job security of newer and temporary workers, two people familiar with the talks said on Wednesday.

United Auto Workers (UAW) members at GM went on strike on Sept. 16, seeking higher pay, greater job security, a bigger share of GM’s profit and protection of their healthcare benefits.

Talks ran late into the evening on Tuesday and began early in the morning on Wednesday, representatives for both sides said.

The walkout – the longest auto worker strike in nearly 30 years – has become a political event, attracting the attention of Democratic politicians, who have been visiting the striking workers and voicing their support.

On Wednesday, Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who is an independent, and Beto O’Rourke, a former U.S. Representative from Texas, are scheduled to visit the picket lines.

The Democratic presidential candidates have echoed the striking workers in saying the GM employees deserve fair treatment from the U.S. automaker they helped through bankruptcy.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, convinced numerous UAW members to vote for him in 2016, helping him win Michigan, Ohio and other states. He has repeatedly demanded GM find a new vehicle for its now-shuttered assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, a key state for him in the 2020 presidential election.

GM officials have tried to counter charges that they are abandoning U.S. workers, releasing details of an offer to the UAW that included the promise of investing $7 billion in U.S. plants, annual raises in a new four-year deal, increased profit sharing and retention of existing healthcare insurance.

However, the sources said some of the bigger remaining issues relate to how fast newer hires progress to the top UAW pay scale of about $31 an hour. Currently, it takes eight years to reach that level for newer hires and the union wants a faster ramp to the top.

Another big issue is the use of temporary workers, who have no pathway to full-time job status and few rights related to sick time or vacation days.

GM has said it can reduce its cost disadvantage with the international automakers in the U.S. market and safeguard union jobs by using temporary workers. The use of temps also allows Detroit automakers to cover for high rates of absenteeism among UAW workers.

(This story adds dropped word “are” in first paragraph)

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2019-09-25