UAW-represented workers at General Motors Co.'s Indianapolis stamping plant on Thursday voted down a proposed 50 percent pay cut that was sought by a potential new owner of the plant, a union official said.
The rejection of the concessions puts the future of the plant in jeopardy -- GM already has announced plans to close the operation unless it is sold.
UAW Local 23 shop chair Gregory Clark said today 416 hourly workers out of about 625 eligible union members traveled to the union hall to cast their no votes before a video camera.
The ratification officially was by mail-in vote, Clark said. But members wanted video evidence of their vote to ensure the accuracy of the count, he said. The entire process, including the delivery of the ballots from the union hall to the U.S. Post Office, was videotaped.
The workers rejected a tentative agreement negotiated by the UAW International with J.D. Norman Industries, an Illinois stamping company that said it would buy the massive plant and keep it open if the concessions were ratified.
Reached by phone Thursday, UAW Region 3 Director Mo Davison said the deal was fair to workers and would protect their rights to transfer to other GM plants if they so desired.
The official vote count is scheduled for Monday. Davison said if the deal was rejected, GM could begin moving tools out of the plant right away and have it closed by next summer.
GM spokesman Chris Lee said it would be premature to comment until the official balloting is completed Monday.
Clark said workers weren't worried about those prospects. One third of the plant's 625 employees are eligible to retire any time and most believe they will have opportunities to transfer to other GM plants nationally, he said.
Workers preferred to take their chances, he said, than take a pay cut that would have provided a straight-time annual salary below $30,000. That compensation would easily qualify a family of four for food stamps in Indiana, he said.
The contract proposal also included a "buydown" provision that would have paid production workers a total of $25,000 over two years to help compensate for the lost hourly wage.
Davison said transferring to another GM plant might not be easy given that 3,600 GM employees are now on layoff. But Clark said the Indianapolis workers and those GM workers on layoff would have first crack at GM factory jobs now held by about 4,000 temporaries, should GM decide to make those positions permanent.
The contract dispute at Indianapolis has been controversial. In May, UAW-represented workers voted overwhelming not to open concessionary contract talks with J.D. Norman.
Despite that, the UAW International took up the negotiations. That drew protests from Clark and the membership that the International had overstepped its authority under the UAW Constitution. Davison dismissed those charges.
Anger reached a zenith in August when a UAW International official was booed out of the union hall after he tried to explain provisions of the new agreement. The chaos was captured on camera and put up on YouTube.