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LORDSTOWN GM, fabricating plant reach tentative pact



Published: Fri, August 24, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Workers will vote on a new labor pact that gives the company more flexibility in work rules.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

LORDSTOWN -- General Motors and the union at its Lordstown fabricating plant reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract that could lead to new investment.

Bob Chambers, president of United Auto Workers Local 1714, said GM is considering a large investment in the plant, which makes parts for the adjacent car assembly plant and other plants across the country.

Chambers and Mary Irby, a GM spokeswoman, declined to discuss GM's plans but both said the labor deal is an early step in the process.

Union vote set: The plant's 2,600 union members will be able to vote on the deal Wednesday and Thursday.

The deal is called a shelf agreement because it will not be effective unless GM awards a new vehicle to the assembly plant and commits to investing in the fabricating plant. GM has been negotiating these advance labor agreements before committing to improving plants.

Workers at the Lordstown Assembly Plant, which makes the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire, approved a shelf agreement in January and are waiting for GM to decide whether it will remodel their plant.

Chambers said negotiations on a labor agreement at the fabricating plant began four months ago and were a welcome sign because workers there had a lot of concerns about the future of their plant.

He wouldn't discuss details of the agreement because members don't have the details, but said it would give the company more flexibility in work rules.

The assembly plant shelf agreement called for combining some skilled trades job classifications and expanded the team concept of small groups of employees working under a team leader to skilled trades.

More competitive: Irby said GM's talks with the fabricating plant union center on making the plant more competitive. She said the company thinks the plant is headed in the right direction.

"We're really pleased that we are at this point," she said.

She said it is too early in the process to talk about the improvements that GM is considering at the plant.

Chambers said the shelf agreement is "very important if we are going to see a future." He noted, however, that passage doesn't guarantee an investment from GM. Part of the reason for caution is that the plant's future is tied to the assembly plant.

UAW Local 1112 and assembly plant management have submitted plans that call for a renovation of the plant that would cost about $500 million, but GM hasn't committed to the long-term future of the plant.

John Mohan, Local 1112 shop chairman, said this week that he is hoping the GM board of directors will approve investment for the assembly plant in October and make an announcement shortly after.




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