GM Facing Threat of New Labor Strife

April 7, 2008

It’s bad enough that some 30 General Motors plants have been idled as the result of a strike at the mega-supplier, American Axle. Now comes word GM itself is facing the threat of serious labor strife of its own.

While no hard deadline has been issued, the United Auto Workers Union says it is ready to walk out at five factories because it has been unable to reach agreement on local contracts at those GM plants.

The UAW reached terms, last Summer, with GM on a nationwide agreement – as it did with the automaker’s cross-town rivals, Ford and Chrysler. But individual union locals also negotiate their own plant-level contracts, agreements that can cover such matters as job security, productivity, and even bathroom breaks.

The union must provide written notice to the automakers before engaging in any labor action, though it’s not clear if UAW leaders yet have hard deadlines in mind.

A walkout would be another major body blow to GM, which has temporarily idled more than 30 factories around the country, as a result of parts shortages created by the six week-old strike at Detroit-based American Axle. Of the even dozen GM assembly lines not yet impacted by those parts shortage, the UAW’s strike warning could shutter three.

Three of the threatened plants are in Michigan, already devastated by declining domestic market share and the overall impact of the U.S. economic downturn.

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