Health care talks continue between GM, union

When car companies sneeze, smaller metal stampers all over the place catch colds. For that reason, we all watch what the car companies are doing …

The players:

Jim Kaster, president of UAW Local 1714 at GM’s Lordstown Complex

Guy Briggs, GM group vice president of manufacturing and labor relations

Act I

Tribune Chronicle

Jim Kaster said Guy Briggs left telephone voice messages at UAW locals to assure them talks were continuing.

Briggs didn’t give details of the talks, but said workers will be informed as soon as issues are resolved, Kaster said.

‘I think he’s very optimistic,” Kaster said, adding he believes Briggs is ‘fed up” with media reports in Michigan that the two sides aren’t talking.

Kaster said his 1,650 members in the Lordstown West metal stamping center don’t want their leaders to give concessions to GM, which lost $1.1 billion in the first quarter ended March 31.

GM says it spends $1,500 on each vehicle it makes to pay for worker health care, a bill it says it needs to cut to compete with foreign automakers whose health costs are lower.

‘We want to see GM start making right decisions to be competitive,” Kaster said. ‘Let’s not put it on the backs of the people working every day. We want to see GM invest money in profitable companies that are going to make money.’

Act II

Also the Tribune Chronicle

Possibilities that General Motors Corp.’s Lordstown Complex might get another car to build remain just that, company and union leaders emphasized Monday.

Pam Reese, spokeswoman for GM’s manufacturing operations, said from Detroit that she was surprised by the certainty of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer report that cited unidentified sources saying the automaker plans to make the all-new 2007 Saturn Ion small car at Lordstown.

“Nothing has been announced on any plans that were stated in the article. It’s pure speculation. It surprised me,” she said.

As spokeswoman for GM manufacturing in the U.S. and Canada, Reese said she would be “pretty tied in if we had something to announce or there were some plans that were definite.”

Lordstown Complex spokesman Tom Mock said, “It’s not a lock” that Lordstown will build another car in addition to the brand-new Chevrolet Cobalt the factory starting producing last October.

He said the company constantly does manufacturing feasibility studies, which he said was done at Lordstown in the first three months of the year.


But a new car eventually will land in Lordstown if United Auto Workers leaders at the two Lordstown locals have their way.

Jim Kaster recalled GM leaders saying a year ago the complex possibly could get another vehicle if it got its quality up.

“There’s nothing concrete,” he said, although he said he believes the complex has “a good shot at the Saturn” because workers and managers have shown with the Cobalt that they can work together to successfully launch a new car.

And then there’s some talk about how Lordstown could be fitted with flexible manufacturing to build multiple streams of cars without large changeovers, all the rage in the industry at present.

And after spending $1 billion, including $200 million for a paint shop, to prepare Lordstown to build the Cobalt, GM needs to find ways to make sure it gets a return on its investment.

Doing the math, March was a good month for Cobalts. GM sold 14,000 of them. Annualized, that’s 168,000. 5 years of such sales is about 840,000. 5 year ROI isn’t bad. But that’s still $1200 per car just for the plant refurbishing. One certainly hopes they can build more than just Cobalts there, or that Cobalt sales still have a long way to climb.

2 thoughts on “Health care talks continue between GM, union”

  1. Health care and worker safety are big issues in manufacturing.

    Part of the reason goods made in China are so cheap is because worker safety is not up to snuff. On this blog you can read about coal mining accidents (coal is used to make steel) in China – the worst record of mining accidents in the world.

    It’s hard to compete meaningfully when the playing field isn’t level, and the value of life is one of the components of the playing field. Health care is a part of that.

    Thanks for your comments.

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