General Motors Co.’s Fort Wayne Assembly Plant has fewer temporary workers and more higher-paid, regular, full-time employees than at the start of the year.
The plant employs about 4,400, including temporary workers, making Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. United Auto Workers Local 2209 represents everyone there with the exception of about 300 management positions.
About 650 members of the workforce were temps as the year began. That changed Jan. 6 when more than 900 of GM’s temporary hourly employees became regular full-time team members across 30 of the company’s manufacturing and Customer Care and Aftersales locations.
“These are great, experienced employees. Their transition to regular full-time status will help create more engaged and motivated teams in our plants, which is foundational to improving job satisfaction, health and safety, and the quality of our products for our customers,” David Barnas, a GM spokesman, said in an email.
“A number of these work at Fort Wayne Assembly. There will be further regular full-time employment opportunities in the coming months,” Stephanie Jentgen, a spokeswoman for the plant, said in the email.
Negotiations between Local 2209 and the facility’s management on a plant-level labor agreement will determine what some of those employment opportunities will be.
The transitions from temporary to regular, full-time status took place Jan. 6 because provisions of a national labor contract GM and the UAW reached last year shortened the conversion path as of that date for temps with at least three years of continuous service at the company.
In Fort Wayne, GM converted 148 temporary employees that day. “We are excited to welcome these employees as full-time team members at our plant. GM expects to bring on additional temporaries as full-time team members in the future,” Jentgen said.
“We were willing to retain approximately 240 additional temporaries as part-time employees, but unfortunately, we could not reach an agreement with the UAW,” she said.
“We appreciate the hard work of our employees and their contributions to GM. We certainly wish them well in their future endeavors.”
A Local 2209 Bargaining Committee Report on the layoff of temporary employees at the plant said it had sought regular, full-time status for 56 additional temporary employees, based on the date they had started working at the facility.
“Every single temp in this plant has worked hard for this company and those 56 should have just been hired, because it’s the right thing to do. Instead, the company put conditions on just doing the right thing,” it said.
“The company has turned down all of our proposals, therefore the temp letters have not been signed.”
In a temp letter a UAW local and a plant’s management spell out for parties to the national labor agreement reasons that the facility needs temporary workers, as well as how many it needs and how long it needs them.
Until recently, a temp letter was in effect providing for 250 temporary workers to continue operations of an Oshawa body shop at Fort Wayne Assembly.
Some of the pickup bodies built at the plant were shipped to an Oshawa facility in Ontario, Canada, for painting, some parts installation and final assembly.
The facility near the intersection of U.S. 24 and Interstate 69 in Roanoke used two body shops most of last year. It used the older of the two to make pickup bodies with a 2018 design for shipment to Oshawa, while ramping up production of redesigned pickups with the newer body shop.
The arrangement allowed GM to implement the redesign for 2019 models without losing any pickup production volume. GM had invested more than $1.2 billion to prepare Fort Wayne Assembly to make the next-generation pickup.
The plant laid off 240 temporary workers at the old body shop after the Oshawa program ended last month and the temp letter expired earlier this month.
Without saying whether GM expects to sell the same number of pickups without the Oshawa program, Jentgen said in the email it would monitor customer requirements “to balance our volumes and the requisite manpower to build those volumes.”
About 235 of the workers at Fort Wayne Assembly recently signed up for a special attrition program providing a $60,000 retirement package, and 177 in production qualified for it. Those that did not qualify for it may choose to stay or may retire anyway.
Local 2209’s Bargaining Committee made a case for converting more of the temporary workers to regular, full-time status to replace more of the 177 employees managers know will retire by March under the SAP.
“We have recently begun to hire some of our temporary employees as full-time team members and will continue to balance the manpower against the requirements of the business,” Jentgen said in the email.
“We will have some team members leaving shortly under the special attrition program while we expect to have further retirements in the future as our team members make those personal decisions.”
The Detroit Free Press reported some workers retiring under the SAP may be replaced through the hiring of UAW members laid off at other GM plants.
Representatives of Fort Wayne Assembly management and Local 2209 were still negotiating on a plant-level labor agreement in mid-January.