4/19/08

UAW serves more strike notices on GM

General Motors Corp. avoided a strike at a Warren powertrain plant on Friday, but the United Auto Workers threatened to send workers to the picket lines at two other factories, including the one that makes the hot-selling Chevrolet Malibu.

UAW Local 31, which represents workers at the Malibu plant in Fairfax, Kan., gave the automaker a letter warning that workers will strike in five days if local contract issues remain unresolved, GM spokesman Dan Flores said Friday.

The union warned GM last week it would issue an official strike threat if progress wasn't made there in plant-level bargaining for a new contract. The Grand Rapids factory employs about 1,400 hourly workers, according to GM's Web site.

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In an online newsletter to members earlier this month, plant Shop Chairman Steve Rop said negotiators from the International UAW were planning to join the talks on April 14.

"We will be meeting daily and receiving assistance from the International Union to get the best local agreement we can procure for the membership," Rop wrote in the newsletter.

Meanwhile, in the Lansing area, another 2,300 hourly workers spent a second day on the picket line after the UAW and GM resumed plant-level contract negotiations at the automaker's critical Delta Township factory. The UAW went on strike there on Thursday, hampering production of GM's popular trio of crossover SUVs.

Each strike and threat, the UAW says, is because GM and plant-level locals have failed to settle on local contracts that govern issues such as plant work rules and worker-filed grievances.

Tension lingering from last year's historic labor negotiations, in which the UAW agreed to major concessions including a two-tier system of pay, is likely a factor in the local bargaining, said Richard Block, a Michigan State University labor expert.

"It may very well be the union saying 'We've given up a lot and we're not going to give any more,' " he said.

Meanwhile, United Auto Workers members at GM Warren's factory are still on the job after a 10 a.m. strike deadline passed.

Talks continued through the night and into this morning between GM and the UAW over plant-level contract issues.

Both sides agreed to take a break and resume negotiations on Saturday morning, GM spokesman Dan Flores said.

The Warren factory, represented by UAW Local 909, employs about 1,000 workers and produces four- and six-speed transmissions.

Negotiations resumed this morning at the automaker's Delta Township plant near Lansing, where about 2,300 workers walked off the job Thursday, also citing local contract issues.

The Delta Township plant builds GM's popular trio of crossover SUVs, the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.

GM has a 40 days supply of the Enclave and a 57 days supply of the Acadia, according to Ward's Automotive Group. The industry average is about 60 days' worth of vehicles.

The automaker is still negotiating local contracts with dozens of locals across the country, more than six months after it inked a landmark national contract with the union.

GM already is dealing with production woes from the prolonged strike at American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. The stoppage, in its seventh week, has forced GM to halt or slow production at about two dozen factories in the United States and Canada. Most of those plants either build or produce parts for GM's slow-selling full-size trucks and SUVs.

(detnews.com)

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