UAW to Detroit 3: Keep the bonuses, give us jobs……2 locals balk at tying too much pay to profits

UAW to Detroit 3: Keep the bonuses, give us jobs
2 locals balk at tying too much pay to profits
David Barkholz
Automotive News | March 7, 2011 – 12:01 am EST

LANSING, Mich. — As the UAW seeks to gain from the rebounding auto industry, two important local leaders at General Motors plants here prefer job security and new products to annual bonuses.
GM North America President Mark Reuss is pitching performance and quality bonuses rather than raises in the buildup to this summer’s UAW contract talks.
GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group want to avoid locking in new fixed costs with raises. They would prefer pay increases to be variable and tied to profits.
But bonuses are falling flat with workers, says Mike Green, president of UAW Local 652 representing 1,000 hourly workers at GM’s Lansing Grand River Cadillac plant and a stamping operation.
Since 2005, “the average member has given up $12,000 in pay and benefits,” said Green, a third-generation auto worker whose son recently joined GM.
Green said the recent $4,300 profit-sharing check GM workers received was welcome. “But it’s a third of what we gave up. That’s not a big gift we’re getting.”
The UAW campaign to regain what workers gave up during the Detroit 3’s financial crisis of 2009 will be center stage this year.
This month the UAW will hold its bargaining convention in Detroit to plot strategy. On March 14, a week before the convention, UAW President Bob King is scheduled to meet with journalists in Detroit.
The Detroit 3’s four-year master contracts with the UAW expire in September. The UAW represents about 120,000 workers at the Detroit 3.
Lansing illustrates the tricky balancing act that King must perform during this year’s talks.
On one hand, Green and his counterpart at UAW Local 602, Brian Fredline, want to see nothing in negotiations that crimps production momentum at the Lansing Grand River and nearby Lansing Delta Township plants.
Lansing Grand River assembles the Cadillac STS and the CTS sedan, coupe and wagon. Lansing Delta Township assembles GM’s hot-selling large crossovers, the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse.
Fredline, president of UAW Local 602, said Lansing Delta Township is running almost full out with about 3,800 hourly workers.
Last April the plant added a third shift of 1,000 people. Most of those workers were laid off from nearly two dozen GM plants that had closed or cut their work forces, he said.
Lansing Grand River is scheduled to get a Cadillac sedan in 2012 that is smaller than the CTS, Green said.
When the new Cadillac ATS is in full production, it will mean 600 to 700 more jobs at the plant, he said.
And the payroll could grow even more if GM adds versions, such as a coupe or wagon, Green said.
“You can keep your bonuses; bring the jobs back,” he said.
Green believes the upcoming labor talks should focus on future products, bringing parts production back in-house and restoring retiree benefits before money issues even get an airing.
“Do we deserve a raise? Absolutely. But it’s questionable whether we’ll get one,” Fredline said.
He said he is particularly worried about retirees.
GM’s $4.7 billion net profit in 2010 and big salaried bonuses are evidence that the automaker has the money to help retirees, he said.
As part of the GM bankruptcy negotiations, hourly retirees endured higher co-payments for medical insurance and the loss of dental and vision coverage, among other sacrifices.
Fredline said: “The $70 to $80 a month extra they’re paying out of pocket is a lot to a retiree.”

New products, please
As the UAW prepares for this year’s contract talks, local leaders in Lansing, Mich., prefer
• New products for their plants
• Return of subcontracted work
• Restoration of retiree benefits

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