ACH deal with UAW in works

SANDUSKY A new contract appears to be the vehicle that would allow a local automotive facility to ke
Annie Zelm
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

A new contract appears to be the vehicle that would allow a local automotive facility to keep its doors open at least five more years.

Members of UAW Local 1216 are scheduled to discuss details of the tentative agreement between the union and Automotive Components Holdings that would keep jobs in Sandusky and potentially add others.

A letter of understanding addressed to UAW vice president Bob King discusses a competitive operating agreement and confirms Ford Motor Company's plan to "source the P473 (Ford F250 and F350) and U502 (Explorer) lighting programs to the Sandusky Plant," as well as a D258 rear lamp deck lid.

The insourcing of these lighting operations would add 140 new jobs if the contract is ratified and would save 115 jobs that would have been lost to outsourcing, according to a 2013 Visibility Agreement outlined in the contract.

But workers' opinions of the contract are varied, depending largely upon their status with the company.

Some with seniority as Ford employees say the agreement is a positive step toward keeping jobs in the area and may be the best the option the union has, given the state of the automotive industry.

"It's better than being shipped off to Rawsonville (Mich.) or anywhere else," said a Ford assembler, who has worked at the company for eight years and declined to give her name because she was not authorized to speak with the media.

For temporary employees, however, it doesn't offer much.

"It's good for Ford, but not for us," said a temporary assembler, who accepted a position with the company a little more than a year ago. "They're telling me I still won't have benefits after another five years -- it's just buying me time to get the hell out of here."

Another temporary assembler called the agreement "a joke" and said he had no plans to sign it -- although he didn't think it would matter, since the number of Ford employees outnumber temporary workers.

The 1.2 million-square-foot facility employs approximately 1,000 workers, 250 of whom are temporary workers on an hourly wage.

One assembler of four years, who started as a temporary employee for Visteon and was later granted the status of a Ford employee, said although the agreement now is disheartening for temps, there may be some hope in sight.

"From what I understand, there will be some provisions to allow temp employees to become Ford later on," he said. "But when they were hired, they knew they were only temporary -- they weren't guaranteed anything."

ACH acquired the plant in 2005 to restructure it and market it for sale. The company owns 10 other automotive plants, three of which are scheduled to be idled by the end of the year in southeast Michigan, ACH spokeswoman Della DiPietro said told the Register previously. DiPietro was not available for comment Monday, and the spokesman serving in her place did not return calls.

UAW Local 1216 president Kevin Furr also did not return calls for comment.

The tentative agreement states it would secure new work for union members, while also offering the option of buyouts if the agreement is ratified.

Other stipulations of the proposed contract include:

* Strengthening a promotional job bid process to prevent possible abuse of the "merit and ability" clause -- preventing senior employees from being overlooked for a job because of the ability of an individual with lower seniority.

* Increasing wages on 185 production jobs with new occupational groupings.

* Further plans to prevent additional outsourcing by allowing certain responsibilities to be reassigned.

* Improving some production associate protections, including a stipulation that allows them to call in 15 minutes prior to the start of their shift to use one day of unpaid personal time.

* A rehire procedure for workers who are displaced through 2013.

* Several health and safety improvements, including regular testing of drinking water, additional training for the Fire Brigade, the installation of two new ice machines and improvements to the women's restroom.