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Union Leaders Blast GM for Remote Work 'Double Standard'

Hourly workers are largely left out of GM’s new flexible work policies.

A recent study conducted by Adobe suggests that half of the total workforce wants “complete flexibility” when it comes to how and when they do their jobs. For many manufacturers who have long dealt with a talent shortage, this is an added barrier: how to attract and retain a workforce for onsite roles in factories when workplace culture changes increasingly reject being tethered?

Despite the hurdles inherent in this approach for manufacturers, it hasn’t stopped some from trying to shift their efforts.

In 2021, General Motors unveiled a new policy aimed at capitalizing on the momentum towards worker flexibility. Dubbed “Work Appropriately,” the program applied to white collar workers who were able to transition from pandemic-era work-from-home to a more permanent remote option. The idea was that these employees work where they were most effective, meanwhile it enabled managers the flexibility to oversee things like scheduling and dress codes without the overreach of a corporate policy.

On the heels of the success of “Work Appropriately,” the Detroit Free Press has revealed that GM is exploring a pilot program that could result in the expansion of the program to other sets of workers.

Specifically, GM says it will expand the remote work option to some salaried factory employees. Spokesperson Dan Flores told the Free Press the initiatives “vary from site to site but include working from home, where appropriate, to do administrative tasks, training, online learning" and shift assignments.

But what’s getting the most attention, perhaps, are those who are not included in this opportunity. GM says roles without “work location flexibility” will be excluded, which includes a broad swath of GM workers including those in engineering, vehicle design, vehicle testing and development as well as assembly line and skilled trades in manufacturing.

The Free Press said the effort “doesn’t sit well” with some hourly workers on GM production lines who won’t have this option, quoting one who said “Would I like to do that? Hell yeah, bring 400 cars to me and I’ll work on them in my backyard."

Scott Harwick, shop chairman for UAW Local 22 who represents hourly workers at GM’s Factory ZERO in Detroit called the policy “a double standard” that he didn’t believe members would appreciate.

GM's Fort Wayne Assembly plant in Indiana, UAW Local 2209 Shop Chairman Rich LeTourneau seems to agree, telling the Free Press that if "The people who build trucks can’t work from home, (he doesn't) think anybody should work from home in the auto industry."

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