DETROIT (CBS DETROIT/ AP) — After telling the union that coverage would be cut off, General Motors now says striking workers will get company-paid health insurance.

In an email letter dated Wednesday to the United Auto Workers, GM said it will keep benefits in place due to “significant confusion” among members stating employee health and well-being are GM’s top priorities.

“These irresponsible actions by General Motors are toying with the lives of hundreds of thousands of our UAW families,” UAW Vice President Terry Dittes wrote in a letter Thursday to Scott Sandefur, GM’s vice president of labor relations. Dittes wrote that public sentiment would “see these actions of GM as a shameful act!”

It wasn’t clear how the rhetoric or the health care spat would affect contract talks aimed at ending the strike by 49,000 workers that has shut down manufacturing for nearly two weeks at more than 30 GM plants across the nation.

“This is an attempt to do what’s right for our employees,” GM spokesman Dan Flores said.

It’s normal procedure in strikes for the cost of health care to shift from the company, which is largely self-insured, to the union. It says on the union website that the UAW will pick up the cost of the premiums. But the timing of when GM ends the health care and when the union takes over is at issue. The UAW said the benefits lapsed, but did not give a date.

Talks continued Thursday, a day after Dittes wrote a letter to members saying that committees had finished their work and the talks had moved to the main table of top bargainers, a sign of progress. Experts say the top bargainers would have to decide contentious economic issues such as wages, profit sharing, giving temporary workers a path to full-time jobs, products for plants GM wants to close and other issues that could take a lot of time.

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