Two of Three UAW OK New Contracts; 3rd Voting Later
DETROIT (AP) _ New contracts covering United Auto Workers at Volkswagen of America Inc. plants in Pennsylvania and West Virginia have been ratified, and union members at a VW plant in Texas will vote later.
One UAW official said Sunday the national contract brings pay for the union members at the struggling automaker’s plants to the same level as UAW members working at Big Three plants.
When the negotiations moved to Detroit a week ago, company spokesman Joseph Bennett said UAW workers at Volkswagen plants were paid about $1 an hour less in wages than UAW workers at General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp.
The company and union conducted the negotiations under a news blackout and details of the new contracts were sketchy.
The contracts at VW’s final assembly plant in New Stanton, Pa., and its stamping plant in South Charleston, W.Va., were overwhelmingly ratified Sunday, less than 12 hours before previous contracts expired.
Bennett said New Stanton workers OK’d their contract with a 1,689-139 vote, and South Charleston workers approved their contract, 225-61.
UAW members at VW’s component plant in Fort Worth, Texas, will vote on their new contract this coming weekend. Their current pact expires March 31.
In South Charleston, where Volkswagen plans to phase out its plant, UAW Local 1933 President Carson Lucas said the 16-month contract includes guaranteed severance pay, tuition refunds and a 34-cent per hour wage increase put into an escrow account.
That money would be released to UAW members in the event of layoffs or a closing of the plant, he said.
″We got a lot more than we expected,″ he said. ″There were no take-aways in terms of job classifications or holiday and vacation benefits.″
In New Stanton, Tom DeRose, election chairman for UAW Local 2055, said the contract was similar to the contract the UAW has with GM.
He said it provides for pay raises and some contract language changes, including the removal of a bonus day, but replacement of it with another holiday.
Bennett said last week during negotiations on the national provisions that both sides had agreed to a news blackout. And DeRose said UAW members also were kept in the dark about the talks.
″I really didn’t know what to expect, with not knowing (in advance) anything being offered,″ he said. ″There were too many rumors, that they were taking away, giving. Everything was hush-hush until today (Sunday).″
About 1,800 of the 4,000 UAW members at the New Stanton plant are on indefinite layoff. There are about 350 UAW members at the Fort Worth components plant.
The West Virginia plant employs about 730 workers, and is scheduled to be phased out during the next two years. The phase-out has not started yet, company officials have said.
Volkswagen of America has seen sales of its Pennsylvania-made Golf model slump recently. Consumers bought fewer than 78,000 Golfs last year - half of the New Stanton plant’s output.
The company bought the South Charleston plant 10 years ago hoping to build a half-million cars in the United States annually. But VW said in September it would close the plant and try to find a buyer.