The deal was approved by 79 percent of skilled trades workers and 68 percent of production workers.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
LORDSTOWN -- Passage of a labor contract that creates new work rules at the General Motors' fabrication plant in Lordstown shows workers are willing to make major changes to keep the plant, a union official said.
"This sends a strong and concise message to General Motors that we're positioning ourselves for the future," said Bob Chambers, president of United Auto Workers Local 1714.
The plant's future has been uncertain because GM officials told the union that it needed to make work-rule changes in order to be viewed favorably for future investment.
Four-year contract: Workers agreed to the changes by passing the four-year labor contract that would become effective Sept. 14, 2003. In balloting that ended Thursday, 79 percent of skilled trades workers and 68 percent of production workers who voted favored the agreement.
The plant's future isn't settled, however, because it is linked to the Lordstown Assembly Plant. If a new model is awarded to the assembly plant, GM's fabrication division has said it would invest $230 million in the fabrication plant.
The new labor contract only becomes effective if GM awards the new model to Lordstown. The fabrication plant, which has 2,400 hourly workers, supplies metal parts and the underbody of cars to the assembly plant.
Team concept: Production workers would face the biggest change under the deal because they would work in teams for the first time.
Instead of having one job, each worker would be part of a team of six and 10 people who would rotate among jobs. A person who is an inspector, for example, also would work as a press operator, stacker and forklift driver.
Teams will be led by a team leader, who would be part of the union.
Skilled trades workers, such as electricians and pipefitters, would not work in teams as the production workers would. Many would have to rotate among various jobs within their classification, however.
GM has been asking unions to agree to more flexible work rules to increase efficiency.
Chambers said GM intends to modernize four of the plant's 26 presses either by rebuilding them or replacing them. It also is to install a new system for making the underbodies of the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire.
A GM spokeswoman said earlier this week that the investment is being planned to prepare the plant in case a new model is awarded to the assembly plant. GM officials are considering a plan to spend about $500 million to upgrade the assembly plant.