Delphi workers pressed to decide
After 21 months of negotiations, Delphi Corp.'s UAW workers learned
Monday that they have just two or three days to decide whether to ratify
a new agreement that would offer payouts and buyouts in exchange for
slashing their wages, jobs and plants.
Workers said the deal also would:
• Call for new competitive work rules within 60 days at the four plants
Delphi plans to keep open.
• Last through Sept. 14, 2011.
• Eliminate the sometimes controversial union policy of guaranteed
employment at Delphi.
The union hopes to wrap up voting by the end of the day Thursday.
Reaction ranged from relief to frustration Monday as workers exited
informational meetings at Delphi plants across the country.
"There were a lot of angry words at the end of the meeting," said Brian
Merritt, a machinist at the Delphi plant in Lockport, N.Y., one of the
plants Delphi will keep open. "I've got mixed feelings about it. ... I
honestly don't know if it will pass. I think it will, because people are
glad to have jobs, but they don't give us a lot of time to think about it."
Workers and industry observers predicted the vote will be close but said
they believe the contract will be ratified because the majority of those
voting won't see a major change to their wages and because workers are
being given so little time to consider their options.
Several workers said they believed the deal would pass because the
alternative could be worse. If the contract isn't ratified, the matter
could be decided by a bankruptcy judge.
There are about 17,000 UAW members at Delphi and about 4,000 are earning
GM wages. The rest are already working at about the same level as the
"I like what I've seen, personally," Tim Doyle, 45, of Bay City, told
Bloomberg News. Doyle joined Delphi in December and is considered a
temporary worker. "Getting this job was a blessing for me."
The proposal would offer about 4,000 workers who make GM wages of about
$28 an hour a so-called buydown of $105,000 over three years to accept
wages of $14 to $18.50 an hour.
They'll also be offered buyouts of $70,000 and $140,000, depending on
Newer workers would be offered severance packages of $1,500 per month
for every month worked, with a cap of $40,000.
The contract, agreed to Friday, calls for Delphi to maintain operations
at four UAW plants, sell four plants, transfer ownership of three to
another party by way of GM and close at least 10 plants.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger credited GM Monday with helping to reach
"If it weren't for" GM Chief Financial Officer "Fritz Henderson and his
team ... this agreement never would have come about," Gettelfinger said
in an interview on "The Paul W. Smith Show" on WJR-AM (760) in Detroit.
GM shares rose to their highest level in four months on Monday, closing
at $36.27, after analyst Robert Barry of Goldman Sachs upped his rating
of the stock to "buy" from "neutral," saying the Delphi agreement may
hint that the UAW will grant larger concessions than expected to GM in
this summer's contract negotiations.
UAW, GM and Delphi representatives declined comment on Monday.
Several GM-compensated workers, in both assembly and skilled trades,
said they were relieved by what they've seen in the deal and the way it
was proposed. They said the UAW representatives who conducted the
informational meetings weren't selling the deal -- they simply told
workers to consider the facts and then vote on whether the proposal
works for them.
But others, including Robert Woods, who took an early-retirement package
from the Saginaw steering plant but is still eligible to vote on the
proposed contract, are reluctant to vote for the plan until people have
had more time to make thoughtful decisions about whether to accept the
potentially life-changing proposals.
"I just don't think that's enough time," he said. "At least give us a
week or two so people can read through things. ... I'm going to vote
'no' until I know all the details," he said. "I can't just vote on
Workers received summaries of the 46-page tentative agreement at the
meetings where UAW representatives answered worker questions, saying
this is the best deal they could get.
"I'm inclined to say, maybe they can come back and get a little bit
more" for production workers, said Marc Amante, 57, a skilled trades
worker in Delphi's Grand Rapids plant. "I'm listening to the
negotiators, and they're saying that more is not on the table anymore."