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Automaker Union Boss Mulls Tying Worker Pay to Company Results

January 13, 2011
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United Auto Workers’ president, Bob King, said that the union is open to recent General Motors Co. disclosures that the automaker would like to see some portion of employee compensation in the next contract tied to the financial and quality performance of the company.

King said that any details would have to be left to collective bargaining, which officially kicks off between the UAW and the Detroit Three automakers after July 4.

“The details of how we share in the upside of the companies we’ll leave to negotiations,” King said, speaking before his speech Jan. 12 at the 2011 Automotive News World Congress in Detroit.

King, 64, who succeeded Ron Gettelfinger as UAW president in June, said the effort to organize transplant automakers such as Honda, Hyundai and Toyota has begun.

King, during his speech, vowed to commit the entire resources of the union to expose to the world the actions of the companies that interfere with the organizing drives.

The union has $60 million available and a strike fund of more than $800 million that union delegates can vote to release for the drives.

Without the right to organize and bargain collectively, King said, “there can be no strong, sustainable middle class.”

King said targeted carmakers that violate the fair election principles will be branded as “human-rights violators.”

That could cause potential buyers to go elsewhere for their vehicles, he added.

King said the union will launch a publicity campaign against violators that will include demonstrations, public meetings, letters, outreach to shareholders and networking with UAW allies in the faith, civil-rights and environmental communities.

“I would not want to be a company branded as a human-rights violator,” King said.

King said the union is meeting with workers at the U.S. auto plants of such foreign carmakers as Honda, Hyundai and Toyota. He said those meetings will accelerate in the coming weeks as the UAW seeks to organize those plants for the first time.

King said he holds out hope that the executives at those firms will agree to organizing principles that the UAW has sent them calling for fair elections without company interference in the campaigns.

He said the union’s role in the revival of the Detroit Three automakers since the 2009 crisis has shown that the union has become a partner rather than an adversary in the companies.

King said the UAW has become much more flexible in the auto plants. He said most of the Detroit Three automakers’ plants have just one production classification, allowing management to effectively deploy the work force.

He said in any Detroit Three plant, shop floor members talk constantly about quality and suggest process changes to improve quality and productivity.

On Jan. 11, GM North American president Mark Reuss said that compensation for hourly and salaried workers should be pegged to some degree to the financial performance of the company and how well it performs on various industry quality measures.

“I think everybody in the company should have ownership—whether it’s quality, sales or profits,” said Reuss, who was interviewed walking the floor of the Detroit auto show.

The UAW represents about 54,000 hourly workers at GM.   

Filed by David Barkholz of Automotive News, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

 

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