After over 75% of the UAW's General Motors hourly workers had cast their votes on a tentative agreement by Tuesday, it appeared the union could announce as early as Wednesday that it had ratified a new and dramatically different four-year labour contract, a Detroit newspaper said.

By the end of Tuesday, UAW locals [branches] representing more than 75% of workers had voted on the tentative agreement between the union and GM. A Detroit Free Press tally of those results showed that most locals had approved the deal, but at least eight had rejected it.

Of the more than 30 locals for which percentage totals of votes were publicly available, it appeared that the approval rate for the agreement was running at about 63%, the paper said, adding that several of the locals that rejected the deal did not share detailed voting information, so it remained unclear whether the UAW-GM tentative agreement had enough votes for ratification as of Tuesday evening.

"I think it's going to be ratified, but it's going to be ratified reluctantly," Gary Chaison, a labour expert and professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, told the Detroit Free Press. "Those who are ratifying it are doing so reluctantly. Those not ratifying it are making a statement. They want to register their dissatisfaction."

Should the UAW have enough votes to ratify the contract, however, a union dissident and former union official took more steps to stall and or defeat its implementation on Tuesday, filing a complaint with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the paper added.

Its report said UAW dissidents have argued for rejection of the deal largely because the new contract would create a second tier of wages and benefits for non-assembly union workers and because it allows GM to transfer its more than $US50bn in retiree health care obligations to an independent trust at a discount.

There is some disagreement over whether GM would fund the trust - known as a voluntary employee beneficiary association, or VEBA - with $US29.9bn in cash and securities, or roughly 60%, as the union said, or the less than 50% some analysts calculate.

According to the Detroit Free Press, UAW president Ron Gettelfinger has said that the percentage isn't the most important thing. Instead, he has said, what's important is that financial experts assure the union that the trust will last at least 80 years, long enough to provide health benefits to all current retirees and to current active employees when they retire. New recruits will receive a different health benefit in retirement under the new contract.

However, many workers - including some who voted in favour of the deal - worry that won't hold true, the paper added.

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