UAW strike averted at Sakthi Automotive in Detroit

Michael Wayland and Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

The United Auto Workers and auto supplier Sakthi Automotive Group USA have reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract for roughly 200 workers, avoiding a strike that was scheduled to start Monday.

Workers for the India-based company will vote on the agreement from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Local 600 in Dearborn.

The union was certified to represent workers at Sakthi’s facilities in Detroit late last year. The deal, if ratified, would be the first contract between the union and company for the workers.

The UAW announced it planned to strike Sakthi on Wednesday, alleging the company was not bargaining in good faith and conducting unfair labor practices.

A.J. Freer, a member of UAW Local 600 overseeing the Sakthi negotiations, accused Sakthi of stalling negotiations and not bargaining in good faith: “The company consistently comes unprepared,” he said on Wednesday. “The company has not fulfilled the information that we’ve requested multiple times.

“They’ve undermined the bargaining unit.”

Neither Freer or the company could immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Patrick Rorai, attorney with McKnight, Canzano, Smith, Radtke & Brault who is representing the union, said recent complaints to the National Labor Relations Board against the company will be dropped, however a 2014 charge unrelated to the bargaining will remain active.

“We’ve resolved ht underlining issues in the most recent charge,” he told The Detroit News on Friday. “The outstanding case currently set for trial, the parties are still negotiating settlements of the allegations made in the NLRB complaint.”

The UAW filed unfair labor charges in April 2015 against the company with the NLRB that alleged violations of coercive actions, denial of access, discharge (including layoff and refusal to hire) and coercive statements (threats and promise of benefits).

A hearing on the charge is scheduled for Aug. 10.

In February, an individual also filed a separate charge that the company had violated the National Labor Relations Act over a discharge (including layoff and refusal to hire). The NLRB dismissed that charge in April because of insufficient evidence.

In October, Sakthi executives, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, delegates from Mexico and General Motors Co. executives gathered for a groundbreaking celebration for a new $30 million plant at 6921 W. Fort. At that time, the new Sakthi plant was expected to open in March and the company said it would employ 350 workers, including some ex-convicts who were returning to the workforce. The project was awarded a $3.5 million performance-based grant from state officials.

Sakthi supplies safety components for vehicle suspension systems to automakers including General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. The supplier has parts on the new Chevrolet Camaro and the new Cadillac CT6.

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