General Motors Co. and the United Auto Workers still haven’t been able to come up with a resolution to the labor dispute that has forced GM to reduce production in Mexico for the first time since the UAW’s strike against last month.
GM announced the temporary layoff of some 450 employees at the engine plant in Silao, Mexico. Last week, GM idled more than 2,000 employees of GM of Canada due to disruptions created by the strike of 48,000 UAW members.
Analysts estimate on GM’s losses from the strike vary between $25 million and $50 million per day but negotiations again broke off Monday without any tangible sign of progress. The discussions are continuing, which is viewed as a positive development.
But there has been little substantive progress on several outstanding issue and both sides remain far apart on the critical issue of temporary workers, according to Chuck Browning, a UAW Regional Director and a member of the union’s executive board told a group of pickets around a GM plant in Romulus, Michigan. A video of Browning’s remarks were posted on Facebook.
Temporary workers represent only about 7% of GM’s hourly workers but two years ago Chuck Stevens, who was then GM’s chief financial officer, told a group of analysts that GM goal was to use an increasing number of temporary workers on its assembly lines.
GM’s goal of increasing the number of temporary workers, who are paid less, have fewer benefits and can be laid off without consequences, runs counter to the desire of union members seeking to elevate the status of temporary workers and furnish them a path to full-time employment and higher wages.
Browning also said GM hasn’t addressed the union’s concerns about product allocation, which is critical to a number of assembly plants. GM has promised to spend $7 billion during the next four years for new products and plant improvements and even a new battery plant near Lordstown, Ohio.
“That’s great for (GM CEO) Mary Barra to make the statement we can place everybody, we can take care of everybody,” he said. “It’s not the case. It’s not true.”
He added that everyone should “prepare for a long fight,” and the current push by GM to move workers to other parts of the country, ultimately resulting in job losses “will never sit right with the UAW, will never sit right with the workers and never sit right with the families.”
However, analysts also estimate GM has nearly 1 million units of excess capacity that help drive up GM’s overall labor costs. The excess capacity concern could lead to the future shutdown of as many as three of GM’s current group of assembly plants, which is clearly something the union would prefer to avoid.
Nor has GM addressed the union’s concern about wages, which have failed to keep pace with inflation since 2007.