UAW VP blasts GM for using temps, increasing Mexico production

March 12, 2019 02:24 PM UPDATED 16 HOURS AGO
UAW VP blasts GM for using temps, increasing Mexico production
MICHAEL WAYLAND

MIKE WAYLAND
Dittes in Detroit on Tuesday: “But I can tell you, we are ready for the fight and I know you’re ready for the fight and I know our members are ready for the fight.”

DETROIT — The UAW is ready to “fight” General Motors during collective bargaining negotiations this summer, according to UAW Vice President Terry Dittes.

Dittes used a speech Tuesday to UAW delegates to heavily criticize GM for its use of thousands of temporary workers, increasing production in Mexico and the potential closure of four U.S. plants by January 2020, among other union issues.

“Brothers and sisters, you can see what we’re up against as we open negotiations this coming summer,” he said during the UAW’s 2019 Special Bargaining Convention. “But I can tell you, we are ready for the fight and I know you’re ready for the fight and I know our members are ready for the fight.”

Dittes, who oversees the union’s GM Department, said there are “more plants that may be in jeopardy as time goes on.” He did not provide specifics.

A GM spokeswoman, in response to Dittes’ comments, said the company continuously looks at its “global operations for greater efficiency and capacity utilization.” She reiterated GM remains “committed to maintaining a strong manufacturing presence in the U.S,” including more than $22 billion investments in domestic operations since 2009.

Dittes, a first-term vice president, particularly took aim at GM being the largest automaker in the U.S., but with fewer union members in the U.S. than Ford Motor Co. and, potentially, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in the near future. He also noted the company’s increasing production in Mexico.

GM last year became Mexico’s largest auto producer, topping Nissan Motor Co. in a year when it reduced output by an estimated 5 percent in the U.S. and an estimated 33 percent in Canada, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

Automakers routinely use temporary workers to assist during launches, heavy times of vacation and other short-term work. The UAW has argued companies overuse and misuse temp workers who do not receive the same benefits as company employees doing the same job.

Dittes’ comments come weeks after the UAW filed a lawsuit in federal court that accuses GM of breaching its 2015 collective bargaining agreement with the union.

MIKE WAYLAND
Cindy Estrada: “We can negotiate all these great things, but we need to make sure they are implementing them on the shop floor.”

FCA expansion
Dittes’ speech, which drew a standing ovation, was in contrast to one earlier in the day from UAW-FCA Vice President Cindy Estrada, who previously led the GM division.

Estrada, who drew several cheers, discussed FCA’s investments under the current four-year contract exceeding expectations, increase in union employment and upward of $100,000 in additional income over the last four years for members.

Estrada also noted additional oversight and efforts to fight against the company “pencil whipping.”

“We can negotiate all these great things, but we need to make sure they are implementing them on the shop floor,” she said.

UAW-Ford Vice President Rory Gamble and UAW President Gary Jones are scheduled to speak Wednesday at the convention, which sets bargaining priorities for the negotiations with the Detroit automakers.

Contract deadline
This year’s contract negotiations are expected to be the most contentious in years, as automakers look to cut costs ahead of a potential downturn and the union pushes for higher wages and benefits to recover past concessions.

Jones on Monday said the UAW boosted its weekly strike pay by $50 and will raise it an additional $25 in January to better support members if such action is deemed necessary.

The pay UAW members receive if on strike is now $250, up from $200. It will reach $275 in January. Striking members would also receive continuing health care coverage, according to Jones.

The current contracts between the UAW and Detroit automakers end Sept. 14, but it’s common for that deadline to be extended.

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