UAW Offical Blasts Saturn Document
WARREN, Mich. (AP) _ A leading dissident in the United Auto Workers said Tuesday that the union’s work on a labor agreement for General Motors Corp.’s Saturn car project has become a sellout and could lead to a company union with far fewer rights for workers.
Peter Kelly, president of UAW Local 160 in Warren and a member of the union’s national bargaining team, said GM was using the excuse of Japanese auto competition to push for a contract eliminating the traditional grievance procedure, seniority rights and the shop committee - the heart of union locals.
Kelly quoted GM Chairman Roger B. Smith as saying that the Saturn labor agreement would be used as model to break down traditional UAW work rules at GM’s 140 other U.S. plants by the year 2000.
″I see (that) inherent in this agreement is the demise of the UAW and the trade union movement as we know it,″ Kelly declared. ″I’m saying this agreement will ultimately affect all GM workers.″
Kelly also took the step, unusual among UAW leaders, of bitterly attacking a fellow leader by name, UAW Vice President Donald Ephlin.
The union doesn’t have a member on GM’s board of directors, Kelly said, ″But I believe GM has a member on our board.″ Asked to whom he referred, Kelly replied, ″Mr. Ephlin.″
Ephlin is the union’s chief negotiator with GM and he leads the team working on Saturn.
The union later in the day issued a statement from Ephlin and UAW President Owen Bieber saying they intend to get an agreement with ″a high degree of income and job security.″ The statement didn’t directly address Kelly or his claims.
However, one union official, speaking on condition that he not be indentified by name, said ″$13.45 an hour for Saturn workers and a high degree of job security and benefits doesn’t sound like a sellout to me.″ He referred to the average wage rate. Skilled technicians would make $15.49.
Donald Postma, a GM spokesman, said the company had nothing to say about Kelly’s remarks. ″There are no agreements yet on either side,″ he said. ″We’re still talking with the union.″
Kelly made his remarks at a news conference at Local 160 headquarters here, where he made an unauthorized release of a 31-page document designed as a foundation for a Saturn contract once the plant is built and workers hired.
The document, called a letter of intent, was dated June 28. However, it was never signed because the UAW Executive Board, the union’s ruling body, rejected it last week.
Kelly said the board did that because of economic issues, chiefly pay and pensions for Saturn workers. However, Kelly said pay wasn’t his concern.
″I’m saying that with this, the union will be absorbed into the corporation,″ Kelly said.
The document outlines a work environment that would make Saturn far different from any other GM complepand more like auto plants in Japan.
The union would gain some longtime goals - such as a salaried workforce and a say-so on management committees. But the traditional system of rigid job classifications wouldn’t exist.
Also, Kelly said that some union-management programs that now are voluntary, such as the Qualitn made for supplier companies to take an active role in running the plant complex and it would appear that GM wants to be near the suppliers.
The automaker has received lucrative bids from three dozen states and a decision is expected this month, according to GM sources.
As a separate company, GM’s Saturn Corp. subsidiary will have a labor agreement apart from the national GM agreement negotiated for the company’s other U.S. plants.