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Axle strike again slows Janesville GM plant

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JAMES P. LEUTE
April 17, 2008
— The 7-week-old United Auto Workers strike against a key General Motors supplier again will curtail production at the automaker’s plant in Janesville.

Workers at the plant learned Wednesday that local production of full-size sport utility vehicles will be cut in half.


For next week, first-shift employees will work their normal shifts and second-shift workers will be laid off. The roles will be reversed for the week of April 28.


The plant’s skilled trades and non-skilled maintenance employees are not affected by Wednesday’s announcement.


While laid off, employees will be eligible for union-negotiated supplemental pay, as well as state unemployment benefits, that will provide them the majority of their weekly take-home pay.


Steve Kegerreis, assistant plant manager, said the starting and ending times of shifts might change over the next two weeks.


If the American Axle strike settles and parts become available, schedules will be adjusted and employees will be called back to work, he said.


The American Axle strike started Feb. 26, and the automaker initially was able to move parts around to keep its SUV plants operating. The Janesville plant was affected first during the week of March 10, when both shifts worked half-shift.


The plant went to the one-shift-on, one-shift-off strategy for the weeks of March 17 and 24. For the last three weeks, both shifts have been working on a slower-moving production line, a plan the automaker announced months ago to trim production from 52 jobs per hour to 44.


Also crimped by the axle strike, workers at Janesville’s sister SUV plant in Arlington, Texas, started a three-week layoff last week.


In the meantime, UAW and American Axle negotiators remained far apart in their talks, the Detroit Free Press reported Tuesday.


The 3,650 UAW members at American Axle went on strike after talks on a new deal collapsed. The company wants to cut wages and benefits, saying it needs to reduce labor costs to compete with other suppliers that won union concessions.


Prior to the strike, the company proposed taking the production wage from about $27 an hour to $14.50 an hour in exchange for a buy-down, or cash payment.



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