Automotive News is calling it a “bitter pill” for the United Autoworkers Union, as it’s been wrapped up in challenges surrounding the GM Orion assembly plant and its ability to control its costs.
The plant, located in Orion Township, MI is said to be dealing with some difficult decisions – specifically, how to continue operating profitably in a plant that’s developing new and slow- or non-moving products like the Chevy Bolt electric and the yet-to-be-released self-driving Cruise AV.
In an unorthodox move, the union has entered into an agreement to allow GM to employ workers for lower than the agreed upon wages, as well as reduced benefits, for some of the positions in the plant. Referred to as the “Autonomous Vehicle Memorandum of Understanding,” the UAW chapter says the agreement “sucks” but is better than a plant shutdown, and that it resulted in zero layoffs.
Still, the deal has raised concerns among union advocates who fear it could serve as a template for other car factories with slumping product lines, and the GM blog GM Authority says there are similar discussions underway at GM’s Lordstown assembly plant in Ohio.
The Lordstown UAW rep says they are “totally opposed” to this type of proposal under the current scenario, where the plant has laid off workers and is streamlining down to one shift. But with automakers like Ford publicly dumping small cars, facilities like Lordstown – which builds the Chevy Cruze – might find themselves with little choice. Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, MI told Automotive News that, though it’s unfortunate, “to secure the work, the union seems to need to agree to these things.”