'Right a wrong'
"We are trying to right a wrong we feel very strongly about, so this doesn't happen to anybody else," says Tom Littlejohn, president of UAW Local 1268. "It is a tough pill to swallow.
"We have language in our national agreement that governs the hiring of temporary workers, and this does not follow those guidelines," Littlejohn told Automotive News. "There is no such thing in our language as enhanced temporary workers."
Local 1268 is appealing to the international UAW, asking it to open talks with Chrysler to end the use of the temporary workers, Littlejohn says. UAW spokesman Roger Kerson declined to comment.
Littlejohn says he and other local leaders were not consulted about the temporary contract. "It was dictated to us that this was the way it was going to be handled," he says. "We felt very strongly it was not the direction we wanted to go."
Chrysler group spokesman Michael Aberlich would not comment on the temporary workers' contract.
Littlejohn says former UAW bargaining executive Nate Gooden was a prime mover behind the deal. Gooden was director of the UAW's DaimlerChrysler Department until he retired in June.
Gooden also negotiated a groundbreaking agreement between the UAW and Chrysler at the Jeep Wrangler assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio. Chrysler ceded paint, body and chassis operations at the plant to suppliers. Assembly workers on those operations are employees of the suppliers, not Chrysler.
2 types of temps
The national contract between the UAW and Chrysler permits two categories of temporary workers, says Littlejohn of Local 1268. Regular temporary workers are employees who serve a 90-day probationary period immediately after they are hired. The contract also authorizes the use of temporary vacation workers.
The Belvidere plant, which builds the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass, is an unusually bright spot for Chrysler.
The plant is scheduled to begin producing the Jeep Patriot in October. Chrysler invested $420 million in the plant, not counting product development costs, to build the three new vehicles.
Before Chrysler added the third shift, the plant had 2,650 hourly and salaried workers.
The plant runs three eight-hour shifts on weekdays. Because of unexpectedly high demand for the Caliber and Compass, production also is scheduled for three Saturdays in August, September and December; one Saturday in October; and two Saturdays in November, Littlejohn says.
The Chrysler group has 67,927 orders for the Caliber and 25,519 orders for the Compass, says group spokesman Kevin McCormick.
If the international UAW upholds the local's appeal and rules that the use of the temporary workers is an improper hiring practice, the union would seek talks with Chrysler, Littlejohn says. Arbitration would be an option if Chrysler refused to consider a reversal, he says.
Littlejohn would not say what Local 1268 would do if the international UAW allows the Belvidere contract to stand. The international, he adds, has not indicated when it will rule on the appeal.
You may e-mail Mary Connelly at [email protected]
You may e-mail Rick Kranz at [email protected]