DETROIT — Striking workers at the General Motors factory with the most employees have approved a new contract with the company, all but assuring the deal will be ratified and a contentious 40-day strike will end soon.
Production workers at GM’s SUV plant in Arlington, Texas, voted 78% in favor, while skilled trades voted 60% for the contract. Arlington is the United Auto Workers union’s largest GM local, representing more than 5,000 people.
The voting percentages were posted Friday on the local’s website but no totals were given. Also, workers at an assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri, near St. Louis, approved the deal Friday with 63.5% of production workers and 69.9% of skilled trades in favor.
About 49,000 workers walked off their jobs Sept. 16, halting production at more than 30 U.S. factories and hampering it in Mexico and Canada due to parts shortages. Analysts estimate the strike cost GM more than $2 billion.
The new four-year contract includes a mix of wage increases and annual lump-sum payments, as well as an $11,000 signing bonus. But it also allows GM to close three U.S. factories that made slow-selling cars and transmissions.
Some production workers could return to work as early as Friday night or Saturday morning, ending a walkout that was big enough to help push down September U.S. durable goods orders by 1.1%, the largest drop in four months.
Although GM dealers had stocked up on vehicles before the strike and many still have decent supplies, analysts say GM won’t be able to make up for the lost production. Had the strike been shorter, GM could have increased assembly line speeds and worked the plants on overtime to catch up and refill its stock. But many of the plants that make popular SUVs and pickup trucks already were working around the clock to keep up with demand before the strike began.
Also, companies that supply parts to the factories and halted production during the strike will need time to restart, although GM has some parts in stock.
Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of the consulting firm LMC Automotive, estimates that GM has lost production of 300,000 vehicles, and he said maybe only a quarter of it can be made up.
“You can’t add days to the week and you can’t add hours to the day,” he said.