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The Journal Gazette

Friday, January 04, 2019 1:00 am

GM sued by UAW over hires

Union says contract violated

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

General Motors violated an agreement with the United Auto Workers union when it continued to use temporary workers rather than transfer laid-off employees to the automaker's assembly plant in Fort Wayne, according to a federal lawsuit the union filed.

“There are approximately 1,000 employees with contractual seniority rights currently on layoff nationwide who have ... rights, including 690 seniority employees laid off at Lordstown (Ohio) Assembly, many of whom have applied to transfer to openings at Fort Wayne Assembly,” the lawsuit states. “The company, however, is circumventing the parties' agreement on employee placement by employing temporary employees at Fort Wayne Assembly rather than transferring laid-off seniority employees under the provisions of (the agreement).”

The union and GM agreed in May to allow temporary workers and extended the deal once – through Aug. 31 – to support the launch of a line of pickups, according to documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for Northern Ohio. The company later sought another extension, but the UAW balked and said it would allow temporary workers only through Nov. 30, the lawsuit alleges.

The union contends interim employees are still in place and wants a judge to rule GM breached its contractual obligations. GM should also replace the temporary workers with laid-off company employees eligible to transfer to Fort Wayne, the union claims.

The lawsuit does not specify how many temporary workers are now in place.

Holli Murphy, president of UAW Local 2209, said temporary workers were still on the job Thursday. Ideally, she said, permanent workers would be transferred soon to replace them.

“That's how I got here,” Murphy said. “That's how a lot of us got here.”

The local plant on Lafayette Center Road, east of Roanoke, employs about 4,000 hourly workers, plus salaried employees. Crews there assemble Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.

GM officials said Thursday plans are underway to transfer workers from the Lordstown, Ohio, plant to Fort Wayne, though their numbers will be far less than the nearly 700 laid off.

“Late last year, GM started the process to bring about 50 Lordstown employees to Fort Wayne to fill some of the positions that had been covered by temporary employees,” local GM spokeswoman Stephanie Jentgen said in an email. “In fact, about 35 Lordstown UAW members will be in place by the end of January.”

She said discussions with UAW about staffing needs are ongoing.

GM has not responded to the lawsuit and court records show no hearings are scheduled in the case.

The lawsuit comes after GM announced in November it would cut up to 14,000 workers in North America and possibly shutter five plants, including the Lordstown facility. Assembly plants in Detroit and Oshawa, Ontario, also were identified as locations that could close, along with transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and one near Baltimore.