GM contract vote in doubt

A close vote appears likely in the ratification vote on a tentative contract negotiated by the United Automobile Workers and General Motors, but the union and GM expect approval of the agreement calling for a two-year wage freeze, deferral of cost-of-living adjustments for nine months, and other concessions in return for greater job security.

The UAW refuses to release returns until the national vote is completed at the end of the week, but unofficial reports in Detroit show the balloting at midweek was running 3 to 2 in favor of the new contract. That could change as some of the union's larger locals tally votes, Monitor correspondent Ed Townsend reports.

The margin of approval narrowed with the 3-to-1 rejection of the contract by the traditionally dissident Lordstown, Ohio, local. Opposition to the pay freeze is running strong in a number of areas, and final results could be even closer - perhaps even turning a prospective narrow victory into a defeat.

In Linden, N.J., voting by 5,500 workers on April 8 was running about 85 percent against approval. Local union officials said they had expected national ratification, but now there are signs ''the contract might go down.''

In contrast, UAW's similar agreement with the Ford Motor Company was approved by a 73 percent vote. Union officials say the difference is that Ford is in financial trouble, while GM continues to make a profit.

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