UAW members trash Nexteer contract with 97% opposed

The rejected deal was announced last week just minutes after the deadline for contract negotiations ended.
UPDATED: 12/7/15 3:07 pm ET - adds worker issues

More than 97 percent of Nexteer Automotive workers represented by the UAW rejected a proposed labor deal on Sunday.

UAW Local 699, which represents Nexteer workers at its Saginaw, Mich., facility, said in a Facebook post today that 3,103 of the 3,183 workers who voted rejected the deal. Production workers turned down the contract 2,704-72, while 399 skilled-trades workers voted “no,” compared with eight who voted “yes.”

Mark Decker, Nexteer vice president and chief human resources officer, called the vote “disappointing.”

“It is a clear message from our employees and one we are considering as we evaluate the strategic options for the Saginaw facility,” Decker said in a statement.

Proposed raises

Production workers would have received a 6 to 32 percent hourly pay raise over the life of the contract to between $15.85 an hour and $17.25 an hour. Starting rates for new hires would have risen from $13 per hour to $15.35 over the course of the four-year deal.

Wages for skilled, semi-skilled and specialized workers would have risen 2.5 to 11.5 percent, according to the contract. All workers would have received a $1,500 signing bonus.

Decker said the deal would have allowed the company to hire more than 300 full-time temporary workers, in addition to investing more than $300 million in new business.

“This tentative agreement was designed to provide stability for our workforce and allow for future growth and investment in Saginaw,” Decker said. “We stand ready to continue the dialog with our union representatives.”

Several issues raised

Some workers on social media expressed dismay at the contract’s health care and wage provisions, among other concerns.

Several workers said it was unacceptable that PPO health care plans in the deal would cost anywhere between $250 per month for singles and $350 per month for a family in worker contributions. Family plan costs would rise $25 each year over the life of the deal.

Multiple workers said the union told its members that full-time employees would have to pay nothing in health care costs, just as Nexteer did in its statement today. Employees would not have had to contribute any money toward HMO plans under the deal.

Some workers also said the deal’s pay increases are too small and do not rise quickly enough, saying they deserve more after years of sacrifices in the wake of the Great Recession. Others expressed concerns about seniority-based pay tiers.

Still others lamented the loss of three paid holidays -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Veterans Day and Election Day -- and changes in vacation policy under the contract.

Representatives from the UAW and Nexteer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Saginaw-based Nexteer, once a part of General Motors and more recently Delphi Corp., is ranked 68th on Automotive News’ list of top 100 suppliers with $2.9 billion in global sales in 2014 and employs about 12,000 workers worldwide. It provides steering and driveline systems to several automakers including GM, Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota Motor Corp.

The rejected deal was announced last week just minutes after the deadline for contract negotiations ended. Nexteer workers had threatened in November to go on strike beginning on Thanksgiving, but the sides agreed to extend the deadline for a deal through Dec. 1 to avoid a strike.

Nexteer and the UAW last ratified a labor agreement in 2010.

You can reach John Irwin at jirwin@crain.com -- Follow John on Twitter: @JohnDIrwin

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