Janesville65.2°

As negotiations drag, some threaten to strike

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JAMES P. LEUTE
April 8, 2008
— While United Auto Workers Local 95 in Janesville doesn’t yet have a local contract with General Motors, it has not followed the lead of five other locals and notified the automaker of its intention to strike.

UAW locals in Arlington, Texas; Parma, Ohio, and at three plants in Michigan have issued a five-day strike notice over contract impasses at the local level.


Last fall, the UAW ratified a four-year national contract with GM. Negotiations on local contracts, which cover operations at specific plants, started last summer but have been delayed by the landmark national agreement.


The national contract gives GM the opportunity to entice senior workers to leave with retirement incentives and replace many of them with new hires who will be paid a wage that’s about 50 percent less.


Much of the delay in reaching local contracts is due to the plant-by-plant implementation of the higher-paying “core” and lower paying “non-core” jobs. The national agreement laid out general job descriptions for the lower-tier workers and rough numbers, while management and union representatives at each plant are left to hammer out the specifics.


Nationwide, at least three UAW locals have told their members that GM is trying to push through more second-tier jobs than the company and union agreed to under the national contract. They said the specifics are hampering local contract talks.


“It has gone on a long time, mainly because of the core/non-core issues,” said John Dohner Jr., Local 95’s shop committee chairman at the GM plant in Janesville. “We know what the number will be, we just have to figure out how we’re going to work with it.”


Dohner wouldn’t reveal the specific number of non-core jobs established for the Janesville plant, but other sources have indicated it’s more than 400.


He did say, however, that the number will come into play in Janesville only if GM needs to hire workers off the streets to meet its production goals, which this week were cut from 52 vehicles per hour to 44.


Dohner said all current employees will retain their core wages of about $28 per hour, and hiring new workers at the second-tier rate is not on the immediate horizon.


In fact, the local plant said Monday that it has laid off between 160 and 200 workers as a result of its recent production cuts.


Dohner said he is confident that a local contract will be negotiated in the not-too-distant future. He wouldn’t comment on whether Local 95 will join the five other locals in officially notifying GM of their intention to strike, although Local 95’s membership authorized such a move last fall.


GM spokesman Dan Flores wouldn’t discuss the specifics of local contract negotiations at Janesville or any other plant.


“We remain committed to continuing to bargain in good faith toward reaching a tentative local labor agreement as soon as possible,” he said.



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