- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. (AP) - Union workers at three North Carolina truck manufacturing plants have a new contract that includes higher wages and other benefits.

The United Auto Workers union and Daimler Trucks North America said the ratified contract covers workers at plants in Cleveland, Mount Holly and Gastonia for four years. The factories assemble Freightliner long-distance trucks, build smaller delivery trucks, and make parts.

The contract covers about 4,500 employees, company spokesman David Giroux said Monday.

The deal includes a $7,000 bonus, 3 percent wage increases the first and third years of the agreement, 3 percent lump-sum bonuses in the second and fourth years, and extra pay for working night shifts.

The two sides also agreed to create a way to reduce the company’s responsibility for rising costs of providing retiree health care benefits. The deal creates a nonprofit that will pay retiree benefits for future retirees. Portland, Ore.-based Daimler Trucks is also seeking court approval to include current retirees in the Voluntary Employee Benefit Association and will provide additional funding.

Daimler Trucks is a division of Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler AG.

A union executive praised the company for negotiating a solution that deals with retiree health care costs.

“Instead of walking away from its responsibility to its retirees, Daimler Trucks North America stayed at the table with the UAW until we found a solution to a problem that is plaguing our nation,” UAW regional director Gary Casteel said. “Retirees from Daimler Trucks North America will have a brighter future as a result.”

Daimler Trucks North America CEO Martin Daum said the agreement serves the mutual benefit of the company, workers and retirees.

“The ongoing close collaboration with the UAW has resulted in a contract that will help assure Daimler Trucks North America’s continued manufacturing excellence and market leadership,” he said.

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