Janesville19.7°

Axle strike keeps slowing local GM work

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JAMES P. LEUTE
April 25, 2008
— The ongoing United Auto Workers strike against American Axle will continue to affect production at the Janesville General Motors plant.

Next week, second-shift workers will build full-size sport utility vehicles, and the plant’s first shift will be laid off. That’s a reversal of what happened this week when the first shift worked and the second shift was laid off.


If the American Axle strike continues into the week of May 5, first-shift workers will be back on the job and second-shifters will be laid off.


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


American Axle supplies GM plants with axles, drive shafts, stabilizer bars and other parts. More than 3,600 UAW members struck the company on Feb. 26 over a company plan to drastically cut wages and benefits.


GM’s plant in Janesville was first affected during the week of March 10, when both shifts worked half time. With the exception of some previously scheduled down time, local production has been about 50 percent of normal because of the American Axle strike.


American Axle’s chief executive said Thursday the company’s original U.S. facilities aren’t viable without a more competitive labor agreement with the UAW.


Chairman and CEO Richard Dauch told shareholders that he remains committed to negotiating a deal amid a strike that is nearing the two-month mark. But he said since the UAW has reached deals with competing suppliers to cut costs for the U.S. market, American Axle needs similar considerations.


“The competitors are going around us and laughing at us,” Dauch said.


As he spoke at American Axle’s headquarters in Detroit, hundreds of striking workers rallied outside. The workers were carrying picket signs and jeering at vehicles carrying people to the meeting.


Talks have continued between American Axle and the union after the company issued a statement Tuesday saying the UAW rejected wage-and-benefit offers that are better than those paid by competitors.


American Axle, which is scheduled to release its first-quarter earnings today, says it could close some or all of its original U.S. facilities if the UAW won’t consider “a U.S. market-competitive labor agreement.”


In addition to Janesville, the strike has brought thousands of layoffs at other GM plants and several other U.S. and Canadian auto parts suppliers. GM, American Axle’s former parent, makes up nearly 80 percent of the parts supplier’s business.


The strike has caused GM to curtail production at about 30 factories, but so far it has had little effect on the automaker because trucks and SUVs aren’t selling well due to high gasoline prices.


Material from Gazette wire services was used in this story.

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