Auto Talks Update

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) -- Retired Caterpillar workers say they can't help but view a tentative contract deal hammered out between General Motors and the United Auto Workers with skepticism.

That's because a key element of yesterday's tentative agreement, the Volunteer Employee Beneficiary Association, failed them.

The program is a trust established by a company and union to pay for or defray health insurance costs for retirees.

A contract hammered out between Caterpillar and the UAW in 1998 included such a trust, which was funded by the union. The trust was depleted in just six years.

As a consequence, around 20,000 Caterpillar retirees now foot the bill for much of their medical costs.

Neither the UAW nor GM gave details of the trust, but word is GM agreed to pay the union about 70 percent of the total obligation.

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