General Motors said this week more than 1,350 hourly employees at its sites in the U.S. will transition from temporary to regular full-time employment during the first quarter of 2020.
The status of the temporary employees was one of the major sticking points during the United Auto Workers’ 40-day strike at GM last fall that wound up costing GM more than $3 billion.
The UAW said that, as of last week, more than 932 temps already have made the transition to full-time status.
“UAW members sacrificed during our 40-day strike to create a defined path for temporary workers to seniority members in the 2019 National Agreement,” noted Terry Dittes, the UAW vice president, who led the strike last fall.
“Due to the contract our members achieved over 932 temporary members were converted on January 6 to full-time status. This is a good start to a defined path for UAW members, but the UAW will be vigilant to make sure that all hardworking temporary employees see their advancement to seniority status.”
Dittes also said the union is “in conversations” with General Motors at several locations where we believe additional members should be moved to seniority status under the agreement.
Standoffs have developed in some locations over the status of temps. Earlier this week, the local management at the GM Transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio, let go nearly three-dozen temps.
“General Motors Toledo Transmission Operations notified 34 part-time temporary employees that their work assignment has ended effective January 13, 2020,” a statement from the management at the Ohio plant said.
“We were willing to retain these individuals as part-time temporary employees but unfortunately, we could not reach an agreement with the UAW. We appreciate the hard work our employees have contributed to GM. We certainly wish them well in all their future endeavors.”
GM also let go dozens of temporary workers at the company’s truck assembly plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Part of the argument in both Toledo and Fort Wayne is that more of the part-time positions should be turned into permanent full-time positions. GM also would like transfer employees from the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which is slated to close for an extensive renovations, to other plants.
GM, however, said it was pleased to move workers to full-time status, which analysts said does limit its flexibility.
“We are excited to welcome these employees as regular, full-time team members,” said Gerald Johnson, GM’s executive vice president of Global Manufacturing. “Our employees are essential to meeting the needs of our customers, so providing these team members with an improved career-path forward has numerous benefits.”
Johnson said GM offers some of the best-paying manufacturing jobs in the United States, including top-of-the-line health care benefits with very low out-of-pocket costs compared to other employers across any industry.
The temporary employees transitioning to regular full-time status will see medical plan cost-share improvements, the addition of dental and vision coverage, company contributions into their 401(k), profit sharing, and life insurance coverage, he added.
GM employs more total U.S. workers than any other auto manufacturer and has invested more than $24 billion in its U.S. manufacturing operations over the last 10 years. According to the Center for Automotive Research, since 2010 GM has accounted for more than $1 of every $4 invested by automakers in the U.S.
“Today’s announcement affirms GM’s continuing commitment to a strong U.S. manufacturing base,” said Johnson.
One of the main issues workers pushed for in the 2019 General Motors strike was permanent status for temporary employees.
However, the language used in the 2019 contract agreement sets boundaries on what a “temporary employee” is classified as. The contract indicates temporary employees will convert to regular employees only if they have a certain amount of consecutive time working at General Motors.