New Delphi Packard team to negotiate

WARREN —  A new bargaining team for the union at Delphi Packard Electric is starting talks with company officials over the future of local operations.

The first bargaining session of the year was to be held Tuesday afternoon.

Mike O’Donnell, shop chairman for Local 717 of the International Union of Electrical Workers, said the talks on a new local contract will cover how the jobs remaining at the auto parts supplier will be structured.

O’Donnell and other union officers were elected last month after the previous bargaining team accepted the early retirement incentives. O’Donnell said he and Kevin Hartill, union president, were included in meetings with the company after they were elected last year.

Packard is the Warren-based division of Delphi Corp., which is operating under bankruptcy protection.

Packard and Local 717 can’t complete a new local contract, however, until a national agreement is reached between the IUE and Delphi, O’Donnell said. The national agreement covers wages and benefits.

Packard is expected to add local workers because so many hourly employees accepted the early retirement and buyout offers. Packard said last year that it needed more than 1,000 workers to run local operations, but only 659 are left.

O’Donnell said Delphi won’t permit permanent hires to be made until the new wage and benefit package is worked out.

Packard is using temporary workers and is allowing some workers who accepted the buyouts to return for up to 120 days.

O’Donnell said he and other Local 717 officials expect to be called to Detroit on Monday or Tuesday to begin negotiations on the national agreement. Hartill and Brian Lutz, skilled trades chairman, will join him on the national bargaining committee.

Investors led by Appaloosa Management have set a Jan. 31 deadline for a labor contracts to be reached but have said they will extend that date on a day-to-day basis if progress is being made. They have said they will pull out if deals aren’t reached by Feb. 28.

A federal bankruptcy court judge has approved a plan that calls for the investors to inject up to $3.4 billion in Delphi.

O’Donnell said he expects the national talks to follow past negotiations, in which Delphi reaches a deal first with the United Auto Workers because it is larger than the IUE.

He said he expects the UAW to strike a deal for wages that are higher than the company last offered.

Delphi had proposed that production workers be paid   $12.50 an hour or $16.50 an hour if General Motors Corp. subsidizes the difference. Packard production workers now earn $25 an hour, plus $2 an hour in a cost-of-living adjustment.

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