Nexteer considers next step after UAW deal rejected

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Nexteer Automotive workers near Saginaw shot a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers down in flames on Sunday.

Ninety-seven percent of the more than 3,100 union members who voted opposed the deal with the auto supplier, according to results posted on UAW Local 699’s Facebook page.

Vote totals were 3,103 “no” versus 80 “yes.” The breakdown was 2,704-72 for production workers and 399-8 for skilled trades workers. More than 3,200 UAW members work for the Buena Vista Township-based auto supplier, which is owned by China-based Pacific Century Motors.

It’s unknown what the UAW plans to do next.

The company appeared open to returning to the negotiating table.

“Nexteer was informed today that the tentative agreement reached between the company and UAW Local 699 was almost unanimously rejected by our workforce,” said Mark Decker, Nexteer vice president and chief human resources officer, in a statement. “While this is disappointing, it is a clear message from our employees and one we are considering as we evaluate the strategic options for the Saginaw facility.”

Officials with UAW Local 699, which represents the workers, did not immediately respond for comment.

It was unclear on Monday what workers opposed most about the four-year deal. On social media, many posted about keeping their current health care and more significant wage increases. Many also have voiced concerns over changes in the language of the contract.

The rejected deal, according to the company, included $300 million in new business; health insurance with no employee contributions; immediate full-time hiring of 300-plus temporary workers; and more than $50 million in new wages.

General wage increases over the length of the deal were between 6 percent and 32.1 percent based on current wages for production workers. Current wages range between $12 an hour and $16.28 an hour. After four years, those wages increase to $15.85-$17.25.

The starting rate for new hires would have been increased to $13 an hour if the deal would have been ratified, according to the contract. The wages would have increased to $15.35 in the fourth year of the deal.

Gains for other groups of workers ranged between 2.5 percent and 11.5 percent based on grouping. Every non-production group, including skilled trades, also would receive at least one 3 percent lump-sum payment over the term of the deal, including three 3 percent payments in the final years of the contract for semi-skilled workers.

Nexteer is a multi-billion dollar global steering and driveline business. It supplies automakers such as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG.

The overwhelming rejection of the Nexteer agreement comes less than a month after the UAW wrapped up contentious contract talks with General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler. The 2015 negotiations between union and Detroit automakers revealed underlying frustrations within much of the union membership, but ultimately left workers with more money and job security through at least the next four years.

Fiat Chrysler workers rejected their first contract offer before approving a richer second offer. And although the overall majority of workers at GM favored the deal, skilled trades workers opposed it and caused a week-long delay before union leaders declared it ratified. Ford workers narrowly passed their four-year pact by 51.4 percent.

It has been a heavy bargaining year for the UAW, as contracts covering more than half of its membership expired this year.

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