3/30/08

Firm hires UAW striker-replacements

Nearly five weeks into the UAW strike at American Axle & Manufacturing Inc., the company is hiring workers for four plants in New York and Michigan that are subject to the work stoppage.

The Detroit supplier says the hiring is intended to give the company a group of workers ready to start as workers now on strike leave their jobs. Any deal between the union and the company is expected to include buyout and early retirement packages.

"We are currently preparing a pool of potential new associates in anticipation of those events," American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers said Saturday.

Little progress has been made on key economic issues at the heart of contract negotiations, such as wages, benefits and buyout packages.

Word spread among workers Saturday that the company is seeking replacement workers.

Wendy Thompson, former president of UAW Local 235, said in an e-mail message that the union learned the company expects to have more than 20 replacement workers report to work Monday.

Rogers said that was not true. "We are not bringing in any replacement workers on Monday," she said.

Rogers also said the company has asked workers who were laid off before the strike to report back to work.

UAW Local 235 President Adrian King said he was not aware of replacement workers being asked to report on Monday.

On Feb. 26, 3,650 UAW members at American Axle went on strike after negotiations on a new contract collapsed. The company is seeking to cut wages and benefits in half, saying it needs to cut labor costs to compete with other suppliers that have won concessions from their unions.

The UAW, which has said it needs more data to substantiate those demands, argues the cuts are too steep for a company that is not in bankruptcy and made a profit last year.

(freep.com)

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