Tens of thousands of members of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) voted to accept a new four-year agreement with General Motors and the multinational corporation’s parts division, Delphi. Although the new contract, covering 117,000 active GM auto workers, 30,000 at Delphi, 234,000 retirees and 63,000 surviving spouses, preserves health care and enhanced pensions, it allows for two plant closings. The old contract barred factory shutdowns for the duration of the agreement. The new one paves the way for the closing of an assembly plant in Baltimore and a Michigan parts plant.

The UAW did not announce vote totals in the ratification process.

One unresolved issue centers on new workers at Delphi. The new contract mandates that GM send $1 billion worth of parts business to its own subsidiary, Delphi. Parts corporations, especially GM, are notorious for massive contracting out throughout the country to get away from unions. Now, it is global contracting out. Delphi will have to hire new workers and their wages will be decided in separate talks within 90 days.

The UAW forced GM to hire an additional 2,250 workers plus 750 workers at Delphi to fill skill trade apprentice positions. With the plant closings on the horizon, there is a question whether new workers will receive training or workers will transfer in from the shut down plants.

In a related development, unions representing auto workers at the Ford Motor Company in Genk, Belgium began a 24-hour strike, Oct. 6 to save 3,000 jobs at the parts production complex. About 9,500 workers make auto parts for Ford in Genk.

Workers blockaded the gates, barring trucks from making pick-ups and deliveries to plants throughout Europe. “We have to build up the pressure,” said union representative Ludo Kopermans.