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Doyle leads delegation to Detroit

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JAMES P. LEUTE
September 11, 2008

Gov. Jim Doyle and a local delegation will be in Detroit on Friday to try to convince General Motors’ officials not to shutter the automaker’s assembly plant in Janesville.


Sources have told the Gazette that the delegation will meet with Troy Clarke, president of GM’s North American operations, and Tim Lee, vice president of manufacturing.


GM officials cited a rapidly diminishing consumer demand for full-size sport utility vehicles when they announced in June that the Janesville plant would cease production by the end of 2010 at the latest.


Coalition members have acknowledged the effort to save the plant is an uphill battle but one that must be made.


The coalition is expected to include the two men appointed by Doyle to lead it: United Auto Workers Local 95 President Brad Dutcher and Tim Cullen, a retired business executive and Janesville School Board member. Janesville City Council President Amy Loasching is part of the group, as is Rock County Economic Development Manager James Otterstein. Mark Cullen of J.P. Cullen & Sons will be along to represent the private sector.


Besides Doyle, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan is the only other elected official included in the group. Consultants hired by the coalition as well as state government officials also are included.


An important part of the group’s proposal will be a recently ratified local contract between Local 95 and the plant’s management.


Union members ratified a national contract last fall that sets wages, benefits and policy on broad matters. The local contract, however, covers particular operations in a plant, such as the amount of work performed by union members that can be given to outside suppliers. It also deals with job standards, worker classifications, seniority rights and grievances.


In addition to the elimination of decades-old work rules, the local union agreed to allow outside companies to handle more sequencing and sub-assembly work, whether it’s done inside or outside of the plant. An increase in supplier work would significantly cut GM’s costs and reduce its payroll in Janesville, which after a series of layoffs and an early-retirement/buyout package now stands at about 1,200.


The local contract is a “competitive operating agreement” that GM is using as a new standard to assess each plant’s commitment to world-class manufacturing. Under what GM calls its “True North” system, plants and their local contracts are scored on a 100-point basis.


Local 95 officials said recent Toyota contracts, as well as ratified deals at GM plants in Lansing and Pontiac, Mich., scored in the mid-90s. They said the Janesville contract should score out at 100 percent, which would generate a lot of attention in Detroit.



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