U.A.W. delegates want response to GM strategy
By: Joseph B. Espo
Journal Labor Writer
Dearborn- Delegates from unions representing General Motors workers around the world were gathering here today to discuss an international union response to what they call GM’s world strategy.
Among topics to be discussed are a strategy on wages and how to deal with the introduction of new technology that will save the automaker but could cost jobs.
The world council meeting follows GM U.A.W. sub-councils and a national GM council earlier this week. Several of those sessions also were devoted to new technology.
In those meetings, a group of Flint workers also began to try to raise support for earlier retirement, to be financed by savings obtained through the introduction of new technology.
About 250 American and Canadian members of the U.A.W., which hosted the conference sponsored by the International Metal workers Federation, joined with trade unionists from 18 countries for the world council meeting
U.A.W. leaders have said they are concerned both with foreign-car imports in the United States and the increased use in domestic cars of parts supplied by overseas subsidiaries of U.S. automakers.
GM Chairman Roger Smith said during a visit to Flint earlier this year that the questions for the U.A.W. to answer is whether it wants high wages or employment for its members.
Smith said the only alternative to wage relief by the union is having more jobs sent overseas.
Federation general secretary Herman Rebhan, in the call for the conference, said that the unions in different countries must try to equalize the number of hours worked per year.
THE IMF ESTIMATES that workers in Belgium average 1671 hours a year; while in Brazil they work an average of 2688 hours. Rebhan said he also wants the world federation to look at equalization of wage rates.
U.A.W. President Douglas Fraser, U.A.W. Vice President and G.M. Department Director Owen Bieber, and Rebhan will address the opening session of the conference. The rest of the two days will be taken up by reports of delegates from each country as well as the discussion on new technology.
Flint area U.A.W. leaders have voiced their concerns about job losses to other countries. Union officials at the Chevrolet Engine plant complained about training a number of Mexicans, who will be supervisors in a plant that GM will open in Mexico.
Mike Westfall addressed each of the sub-council meetings. Westfall’s program calls for some of the savings GM will achieve through new technology to be placed into a fund to enable early retirement, additional cost-of-living on pensions, and increased numbers of personal paid holidays.
The program also calls for guaranteed job security after workers have reached a certain level of seniority.
Westfall also wants to apply extra pension credits accumulated by workers who remain in their jobs after they are eligible for retirement to be placed in a fund that would enable other workers to retire early.
Westfall distributed a four-page tabloid and a handbook of information about the program. He said that the alternative to international communication about new technology is an increasing struggle among workers in different countries for jobs.
The original push for 30-and-out came from a rank-and-file group based in Flint.
If the proposal is to be a topic in negotiations, it will have to win resolutions of support from the sub-council and the national bargaining council. The next series of sub council meetings will be held in September: the contract expires a year later.
Flint Westfall Awareness Rally
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