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GM halts work at 2 plants because of UAW disagreement

From Automotive News| April 28,2007

General Motors has halted renovations of its Lordstown, Ohio, and Fairfax, Kan., assembly plants after negotiations with local UAW officials stalled, sources say.

GM had been preparing both plants for production of next-generation vehicles. In turn, GM has asked Lordstown employees to work 10-hour shifts without overtime. The automaker also wants to subcontract some nonunion jobs, according to a local UAW Web site.

Lordstown currently builds the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5, plus the Pontiac Pursuit for Canada and the Pontiac G4 for Mexico. All vehicles share the Delta small-car platform.

At Fairfax, GM was preparing for production of its next-generation mid-sized cars, which share the front-wheel-drive Epsilon 2 platform. Fairfax currently assembles the Chevrolet Malibu and Saturn Aura.

Automotive News first reported the negotiations April 16. At both plants, local unions had been negotiating with GM since mid-February on work rules, subcontracting janitorial jobs and other money-saving concessions.

"They were making a lot of progress," said a GM source. "Last week we thought we were pretty close to getting a local agreement. But the national union stepped in and said, 'No, no way.' We thought: 'Why?' "

No guarantees?

This month local union leaders told Automotive News that they know they must make concessions. But they are demanding firm guarantees that GM will produce those next-generation vehicles in their plants.

In Fairfax, UAW Local 31 President Jeff Manning said negotiations broke off two days before GM's April 20 deadline for a new agreement.

Manning said he is most concerned about GM's demand to outsource some jobs. The automaker wants to use nonunion workers to unload parts from trucks and haul them to the assembly plant.

GM also wants to let outside contractors assemble door panels, wheels and some engine components. That would put 500 of the plant's 2,500 UAW jobs at risk, Manning said.

Negotiations broke down when GM told the UAW that it had halted development of assembly-line tooling for the next-generation vehicles.

Restart negotiations

Manning said he hopes to restart negotiations after a meeting in Detroit next week with UAW international representatives.

GM officials thought they were progressing in negotiations before national UAW leaders called a halt.

"We were at the point where both sides were pretty happy with what we had, but suddenly it stops," said the GM source. "So we said, 'OK, if you guys are going to do that … then we're going to make a statement on our end."

The union tells a different story. At Lordstown, Local 1714's Web site criticized GM's "quiet decision" to postpone development of its next-generation Delta vehicles.

"It looked like that project was destined for the Lordstown plant," the Web site message said. "But when GM brass in Detroit shelved that project, international leadership of the United Autoworkers Union suspended local contract talks."

GM spokesman Dan Flores declined to comment on the sticking points saying, “Management and local union leadership at both plants are continuing to work hard to put their respective plants in a position to attract a future product. I can’t comment on the status of the current discussions. We’re all focused on taking both plants forward.”

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