Orion workers can get full wage in Flint, union says

Orion workers can get full wage in Flint, union says
12:17 AM, Jan. 29, 2011  |  

General Motors’ decision to add a third shift at its Flint factory will allow all its Orion Township first-tier employees to work in southeast Michigan at the UAW’s full wage, said Mike Dunn, chairman of Orion’s Local 5960.
GM sent a letter Thursday to all Tier 1 workers from the idled Orion factory, including those working in other plants, giving them the opportunity to work 35 miles away in Flint.
The letter, obtained by the Free Press, essentially resolves any uncertainty Orion workers felt about having to transfer out-of-state to avoid accepting a 50% pay cut.
In a labor deal announced in October, the UAW and GM agreed that 40% of Orion workers will make the UAW’s lower, second-tier wage in exchange for bringing overseas production of the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact to Orion, which had been slated to close.
GM plans to employ about 1,300 hourly workers at Orion — about 800 at the $28-an-hour first-tier wage and 500 at about half that amount. The idled plant had about 1,600 workers, including 1,100 making the Tier 1 wage. So some workers faced a decision: Should they transfer to an out-of-state GM plant, such as one 250 miles away in Lordstown, Ohio, or stay at Orion at a lower wage?
That decision is no longer necessary, Dunn told the Free Press on Friday.
“When Flint added a shift, everybody that’s a Tier 1 person that works at Orion will return at Tier 1” in southeast Michigan, Dunn said.
GM said on Monday it planned to add about 750 jobs to its Flint plant by the third quarter to help build heavy-duty GMC Sierras and Chevrolet Silverados. That’s the same quarter GM will start production of the Sonic in Orion.
Union leaders had said they hoped retirement incentives could reduce Orion’s first-tier wage pool, which might have allowed all of Orion’s first-tier jobs to go to workers who were laid off at the higher wage. But the third shift at Flint guarantees those workers will retain their wages.

In the letter sent Thursday, workers have three choices:
1. Choose to work in Flint. That may be an attractive option for the more than 600 workers who were already driving through the Flint area to work in Orion.

2. Apply for a spot working in Orion at the full wage. GM will fill those spots by seniority, so the workers choosing this option will be able to transfer to Flint if they don’t make the cut.

3. Stay in Orion, no matter what. If the worker’s seniority does not make him or her one of the about 800 making the full wage, this option indicates the worker will willingly take the 50% pay cut.

Many Orion workers had already transferred to plants such as Lordstown. If they accepted only a $4,800 relocation bonus, they retained rights to come back to Orion after six months. That would qualify them to choose one of the options in the letter.
The Orion agreement, which is specific to “small car” production, does not allow new first-tier workers to transfer into Orion.
So as workers retire or elect to transfer to other plants, the plant will increase its percentage of second-tier workers, with the goal of paying all workers $15 an hour.
The landmark UAW agreement that allowed for the use of a two-tier wage called for a 25% company-wide cap on lower-wage workers starting in 2015, but didn’t put caps on individual plants.

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