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American Axle Seeks Replacement Workers in Strike

April 1, 2008
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About 140 laid-off workers of American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. returned to work long enough Tuesday, April 1, to tell the company that they are on strike.

The workers from American Axle’s Detroit complex immediately joined the United Auto Workers picket line outside the plant.

“Everybody was cheering,” said Wendy Thompson, former president of UAW Local 235, which represents hourly employees at the complex.

American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers confirmed that the workers were called back for Tuesday, but went immediately on strike.

Thompson said picket lines were bolstered by union members from non-American Axle operations who joined strikers on the lines today. They came in protest of the company’s job notice this weekend for replacement workers, she said.

American Axle is looking for replacement workers at its Detroit and Three Rivers factories.

About 3,650 UAW-represented workers at American Axle have been on strike at plants in Michigan, Indiana and New York since February 26. The strike is having a growing impact on General Motors operations in North America.

GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, which makes the Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS, was officially idled Tuesday. In addition, seven GM light-truck assembly plants are closed, along with 22 parts operations in North America. Several suppliers also have slowed or idled plants that supply GM.

The Detroit-based supplier took out an advertisement in the Sunday, March 30, issue of The Oakland Press, a suburban Detroit newspaper, asking for applicants for production and skilled-trades jobs.

“Employment offered to applicants responding to this advertisement will be to fill anticipated attrition replacement openings after negotiations or in place of employees involved in this strike,” said the ad, which noted the strike at the plants seeking applicants.

The call for applications is to establish a pool of workers from which the company can draw once negotiations between American Axle and the UAW are completed, Rogers said.

“Once we reach an agreement with the UAW, we expect we’ll have a fairly significant number of associates who will take buyout and attrition programs,” Rogers said.

She declined to say or estimate the number of workers American Axle is seeking through the ad.

Rogers said talks were “moving ahead slowly.”

UAW representatives were not immediately available for comment.

No major progress has been reported in talks between the UAW and American Axle, which is demanding deep cuts in pay and benefits to remain competitive with other manufacturers of driveline parts.

GM depends on axles from the Detroit supplier for nearly all its domestic light trucks.

Filed by David Barkholz and Robert Sherefkin (with additional reporting by Ryan Beene) of Automotive News, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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