Seat-plant workers will receive a 20 percent pay raise and $1,300 signing bonus.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
LORDSTOWN -- A new labor contract at a seating plant is the latest in a series of positive steps toward bringing a new product to the General Motors' Lordstown Assembly plant, a union official said.
"Lordstown is looking good," said John Mohan, shop chairman of United Auto Workers Local 1112. "We just have to be patient and wait."
Workers at Lear Seating approved a contract Sunday, with 87 percent voting in favor of the deal. The plant, which is near the assembly plant, employs 320 hourly workers.
If workers had rejected the agreement and gone on strike, the assembly plant would have closed because GM uses just-in-time delivery to supply the plant with seats.
What's in contract: The four-year contract gives workers pay raises of about 20 percent, a $1,300 signing bonus and better benefits, said Jim Graham, president of Local 1112, which represents workers at the assembly and seat plants.
Workers' pay will increase gradually from more than $15 an hour to more than $18 an hour over the contract, Graham said. Part of the signing bonus is to be paid immediately and the rest at the end of the year.
Benefit improvements include better accidental-death and life insurance benefits and more vacation days and sick leave.
Significance: The contract with Lear workers follows steps GM has taken to bring a new vehicle to the plant to replace the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire.
GM has negotiated state and local financial incentives and reached advance contract agreements with unions at the assembly plant and an adjacent fabrication plant.
Those contracts take effect only if a product is awarded.
It also has worked out renovation plans for the assembly plant, which could mean $500 million worth of work, and proposed $230 million in upgrades to the fabrication plant.
Mohan said the process has taken a lot longer than he first thought. GM was pushing Local 1112 officials for a new contract for the assembly plant by the end of 2000.
Union officials said then that they thought the GM board of directors was going to decide Lordstown's future in January of this year.
Long wait: After that month passed, plant manager Herman Maass, now retired, said he expected a decision by June.
A GM spokeswoman later said the decision would likely be in the second half of this year, but last week she said she couldn't speculate on when the decision might come.
Union officials now are hoping the GM board decides next month.
Mohan said union and management officials at the plant have done all they can. Now it's up to corporate executives to show that investing in Lordstown is a good business decision, he said.
"It's just a matter of waiting to hear an announcement," he said.