General Motors' U.S. workforce productivity has declined since the automaker recovered from a 2009 bankruptcy, even as its profit per employee has risen, a Reuters analysis shows.
Those trends point to some of the root causes of the UAW strike that has shut down the automaker’s U.S. manufacturing plants for 18 days, already costing the company about $100 million a day.
The automaker wants to boost productivity to offset financial pressure from a slowing global economy and investments in electric vehicles. The UAW is focused on increasing the share of profit going to workers, and closing wage gaps between full-time and temporary employees in GM factories.
GM’s unionized workers in the United States build some of the company’s most profitable truck and SUVs.
GM does not publish direct measures of U.S. productivity. But the number of vehicles the Detroit automaker built in the United States per U.S. employee fell to about 19 in 2018, down 13.5 percent from the 2010 level.
The Reuters calculation is based on GM annual production numbers sourced from research firm Wards Intelligence and the U.S. employee count in GM’s annual filings.
A GM spokesman declined to comment on the analysis, saying that the automaker was “focused on negotiating a new labor agreement that builds a stronger future for the company and our workers.”
The UAW said it believes GM’s productivity is better since 2010 and the data would be more accurate based on total hours worked rather than employment.
Between 2010 and 2018 GM’s estimated U.S. profit per employee surged 40 percent to about $94,097 last year, based on analysts’ assumptions that U.S. operations generate about 90 percent of the automaker’s North American operating profit disclosed in GM filings.
However, productivity and operating profit per worker have both slipped at GM between 2017 and 2018.