UAW-Nexteer workers to vote on second deal
UAW Local 699 President Rick Burzynski believes a second tentative agreement reached with Nexteer Automotive addresses concerns that led to a 20-hour strike and 97 percent of membership rejecting a first deal.
“We pretty much addressed everything that our workers wanted,” he said Monday morning, a week after workers walked off their jobs and picketed the Chinese-owned auto supplier. “I think for the most part our members are satisfied, but it’s all going to come to the vote.”
Major changes between the two agreements include a $500 increase in signing bonus to $2,000, increased hourly wages, no-cost health care, additional clarity in language, better pay for forced overtime and non-economic changes. The new deal also is a five-year agreement instead of four.
The Saginaw union’s 3,200-plus members are scheduled to vote on the new agreement Thursday and Friday, following informational meetings Tuesday and Wednesday. The multiple days of meetings and voting is a change from when meetings and voting previously were crammed into one day.
“That was a problem before,” Burzynski said. “A lot of our membership thought we were doing it too quickly. We tried to address it this time.”
The latest deal includes a general wage increase of at least $1 per hour over the current rate for production workers upon ratification, with retroactive pay back to Sept. 15. Current wages range between $12 an hour and $16.28 an hour. At the end of the proposed deal in 2020, wages would range between $15.35 and $18.69.
The starting rate for new hires would increase to $13 an hour and then $15.35 in the fifth year of the deal — a year later than the rejected deal.
All non-production workers besides one group of skilled trades receive at least $1 more in hourly compensation upon ratification as well as lump sum bonuses for most groups.
Members previously voiced several concerns to The Detroit News about the rejected agreement. Health care costs, facility maintenance, forced overtime, not regaining past concessions and low wages were among the most common complaints.
The rejected deal, according to Nexteer, included $300 million in new business, health insurance with no employee contributions, hiring of 300-plus temporary workers immediately and more than $50 million in new wages. It included $1,500 signing bonuses. By comparison, UAW workers at the Detroit automakers won signing bonuses ranging from $3,000 to $8,500 in their recently completed contract talks.
The one-day strike quickly affected two of Nexteer’s largest customers — General Motors Corp. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
GM last week confirmed the third and first shifts at its pickup plant in Indiana were sent home early Wednesday, and the second shift was canceled because of parts shortages. Fiat Chrysler ran shortened first shifts Wednesday at Toledo North (Ohio) and Brampton (Ontario) assembly plants.
Nexteer Director of Global Corporate Affairs Luis Canales, in a statement, said “employees are focused on delivering quality product to our customers.”
Nexteer produces electronic power steering systems, hydraulic steering systems, steering columns and driveline parts globally. It supplies FCA, GM, Ford Motor Co., BMW, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG.
Nexteer employs more than 12,000 globally, including 5,000 in Michigan. In August, the company announced it would open its new global headquarters in Auburn Hills in the second quarter of 2016. Its Global Engineering Center will remain in Saginaw County.
The groundwork for Nexteer’s survival and its sale to Pacific Century Motors was laid in a pivotal labor agreement in 2010, the last ratified by the local union. UAW Local 699 agreed to a reduction in starting pay — wages averaged $27-$28 an hour in the mid-2000s — to about $12.
In 1999, Saginaw Steering Gear became part of Delphi when Delphi was spun off from GM. When Delphi emerged from bankruptcy, GM agreed in October 2009 to buy back its steering plants. It sold Nexteer in 2010 for $450 million.
The Nexteer strike came less than a month after the UAW wrapped up contentious contract talks with GM, Ford 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.