Gm to Discuss Job Changes Policies With Uaw

By: Iver Penn

General Motors and the United Auto Workers have not yet officially started their contract talks and yet critical battles are already waging on various plants of GM around the country.

GM the producer of top-of-the-line is trying to push UAW locals at its factories to accept the money-saving work rule changes that would involved reduced break time to give way for the accomplishment of more jobs. This policy is currently employed by some of GM's foreign competitors particularly Toyota Motor Corp.

FoMoCo was also successful in implementing such so-called competitive operating agreements in place with the relative ease in more than three dozen of its US plant unfortunately for GM is having hard time convincing UAW to give it the same contract.

The risks are high in these plant-by-plant battles since it could signal how agreeable the UAW will be to agreements that would secure future work during national contract talks which would officially start in July. For GM as much as possible it would like to set the tone earlier just to send the message that it will not tolerate money-wasting practices, but of course it is expected that the union will not easily forgo hard-won safeguards in the workplace.

General Motors has been trying for years to put more flexible work rules in place at its plants. The company however has not divulged any details on how many factories would have such agreements but officials have acknowledged that progress has been slower than what they have hoped for.

General Motors has employed many schemes just to get the union to implement money-saving practices especially since it has already some of the most highly efficient plants in United States. But despite that the company is still looking for a much broader and more comprehensive changes.

For its North American operation GM has lost an average of $1,300 for each of its vehicle while its rival Toyota is making about $2,100 on each car and truck built in the US basing on the data gathered from the Center for Automotive Research that is often cited by GM.

According to experts big and small issues in terms of work changes can have significant impact on the company and can help in saving hundreds of millions of dollars annually especially when implemented companywide.

For instance if GM could get the UAW to agree on its terms it could save money by paying overtime after a worker puts in more than 40 hours a week rather than the usual eight hours in one day. Similarly, less break time and rules on absenteeism are likely to be included on the automaker's wish list. The other key goals would probably include: fewer job classifications, which would improve work flexibility by allowing workers to do more than one job, and the ability to outsource more non-production related jobs.

These rules are already implemented in US plants especially those owned by foreign competitors which are mostly found in the South and staffed by nonunion labor.

The first signs of dispute at GM happened last month when disagreements over work rule changes temporarily stalled talks to bring new vehicles to plants in Kansas City, Kan., and Lordstown, Ohio. Both these plants produce small cars that have for many years have been money-losers for GM. Top UAW officials mediate in the negotiations, ordering the local union leaders to stop its discussion with GM.

The automaker has responded by calling off work to prepare the plants for the production of future vehicles. The automaker has also made it clear that without a competitive operating agreement the plants could lose work.

On the other hand while the other plants are battling it with GM, the former Saturn plant in Hill, Tenn., are preparing to build a new Chevrolet crossover SUV, this is after GM was able to secure a work rules deal with the workers. The Spring Hill workers were desperate for a new product after the automaker has canceled plans to build a minivan there.

GM's next target is massive Orion Assembly plant in Oakland Country where the automaker has secured local tax breaks that is often accompanied with the promise of a new product investment. General Motors has made its Pontiac G6 in Orion and is considering bring production of the new Malibu sedan there in case demands exceed capacity at Kansas City which is the primary production site for the Malibu. The Malibu is expected to go on sale later this year.

Union leaders have chosen not to comment on the negotiations saying that members have not yet seen GM's proposal for a more competitive operating agreement at Orion. But there are some workers who are saying that GM's new work rules will definitely face resistance.

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