2-tier wage at GM feared

I wonder if the UAW will share the pain by offering reduced dues since the members pay will be reduced? Two (or four) tier dues?
2-tier wage at GM feared
If Delphi Corp. hourly workers -- many of them voting today -- ratify a deal that offers them a variety of payouts in exchange for lower wages and benefits, some UAW members say it would have even larger implications, introducing a controversial two-tier wage system at General Motors Corp. for the first time.
There are clauses near the end of the 46-page tentative agreement among the UAW, Delphi and GM that appear to reassign about 1,750 Delphi workers to GM workers, but pay them at Delphi's so-called supplemental rates, the lower wages and benefits paid to Delphi workers hired since 2004.
"What they're doing is opening the door for two-tier" wages, said Gregg Shotwell, a UAW activist and GM worker who runs the Web page www.soldiersofsolidarity.com. "That's usually the way they start."
Under two-tier systems, new hires never catch up to the wages and benefits of current autoworkers. Such a permanent gap has long been opposed by the union.
Representatives from the UAW, Delphi, and GM declined to comment on the issue Wednesday.
It is clear that, if the proposal is approved, all production workers who remain at Delphi would be paid $14.50 to $18.50 per hour. About 4,000 currently receive an average wage of about $28 per hour.
But union dissidents argue that a ratified proposal also would introduce those wages into plants in Flint and Dayton, Ohio, where the Delphi agreement says workers from its local unions "will become GM employees at the wage and benefit levels as contained within the modified UAW-Delphi Supplemental Agreement."
Flint and Dayton are two of the three sites the contract calls "footprint sites," which are slated to be sold to a third party by GM. Delphi's Saginaw manufacturing plant is the third, though it is to be sold as soon as possible. All are expected to leave Delphi's responsibility by the end of 2008.
The worry is that it would spread beyond Flint and Dayton, first to other parts and packaging warehouses and eventually through GM.
Two-tier systems are rising in popularity in the auto industry, but some experts say the Delphi agreement does not significantly accelerate the trend.
Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at the University of California at Berkeley, argued that the agreement doesn't set a precedent for introducing lower wages at GM.
"It couldn't come through the side door," Shaiken said of a two-tier system. "Delphi is a bankrupt company under very special circumstances, where the positive dimension is you've got GM involved through 2015. What's most significant here is the survival of 1,000 jobs and GM involvement in a plant that could have unexpected potential over time."
In Flint, Art Reyes, president of UAW Local 651, said he was grateful that the UAW was able to secure jobs at a plant that had an uncertain future.
"We are talking about 1,000 jobs in this community that is in dire need of good economic news," Reyes said.
Even workers who are concerned that the deal introduces a two-tier system say privately that the UAW did a good job of getting something for everyone in the proposed contract.
All Delphi workers are being offered some kind of cash compensation or job transfer in exchange for ratifying the agreement, which is considered necessary for Delphi to exit bankruptcy and avoid a strike.
Still, UAW members at GM and elsewhere are concerned about the possibility of the agreement introducing the two-tier system at Detroit's largest automaker.
Those workers are worried it could be a way to divide and weaken the union by pitting highly paid veteran workers against new hires until there are no highly paid workers.
The fear is that when the workers who received lower wages and benefits -- and never had the promise of retirement benefits -- are asked to vote whether to retain benefits for retirees, they'll let the benefits go.
"This is a just another chapter in what's going on in U.S. manufacturing," said Robert Woods, 48, of Saginaw, who took an early retirement offer at Delphi and will get to vote today. "We're selling out our children and that's what bothers me the most."

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