2/6/08

UAW ducks accountability for strike

Five days after contract negotiations ceased, striking workers continued to walk the picket line Tuesday at Volvo Trucks North America plant in Dublin, Va. Thousands of workers from southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia walked off the job at midnight last Friday when the current contract expired, Volvo spokesman Jim McNamara said. Currently, negotiations between the company and United Auto Workers Local 2069 have ceased, McNamara confirmed.

“Unfair labor practices is the reason we’re on strike,” UAW Local 2069 President Lester Hancock said Monday, while walking the picket line at the plant. Hancock declined to cite specific reasons why contract negotiations ceased and workers went on strike.

Late last year, Volvo announced a impending layoff of up to 650 workers this year. However, Hancock said this was not the reason for the strike.

Hancock said the union realizes the “whole trucking industry” is in a downturn, which could spur the layoff. “It’s everywhere,” he said. “It’s not just Volvo.”

McNamara also declined to cite specific reasons for the strike.

“If it were up to the company, Volvo, we would still be negotiating and our people would still be at work,” he said. “And we’re surprised that the UAW has used plant health and safety as a reason for striking.”

McNamara said negotiations on the current contract began on Jan. 8, “and continued until the union left the bargaining table” at the time of the strike.

“Volvo is committed to the collective bargaining process and we are willing to continue to bargain in good faith until an agreement can be achieved,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., pledged to stand by the striking workers Monday while speaking to a crowd of more than 1,500 at the United Auto Workers Annual Legislative Political Conference in Washington D.C.

“We have a situation down in Dublin that is on my mind today, and it is on a lot of your minds, I’m sure,” Webb said. “I am very concerned about the UAW Local 2069 strike that began last week, and I’m going to be watching it closely. We want a good resolution. We want the kind of business in Virginia that the plant affords, but we also want our workers to be taken care of. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that happens.”

The Dublin Volvo plant employs just under 2,900 individuals, McNamara said. About 2,600 of these employees are members of the local UAW.

Many employees of the plant reside in Mercer, McDowell and Monroe counties in West Virginia, and in Tazewell, Bland and Giles counties in Virginia.

The New River Valley plant manufactures all heavy duty trucks for Volvo and Mack Trucks sold in the United States and Canada, McNamara said.

“In terms of size, it is the largest truck plant globally for the Volvo group,” he said.

Although the volume of trucks produced at the plant fluctuates from year to year due to market demands, McNamara said at the time of the strike the plant was producing about 100 trucks a day, most of which were Volvo.

(bdtonline.com)

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