UAW Local #273 members working at Chrysler’s Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance factory in Dundee, Michigan voted to authorize a strike [Ed: despite a no-strike agreement that was agreed to inexchange for Chrysler’s bailout] in advance of negotiations over local issues, particularly a recently announced rotating shift schedule that has created unrest at another Chrysler plant in the Detroit area. The proposed schedule is so unpopular that almost 99% of local #273 members voted to authorize a strike if negotiations break down. The shifts, which rotate 12 hr day and night shifts week to week, are intended, Chrysler says, to maximize productivity. The UAW says it is to reduce overtime pay. The normal 3 shift model increases straight-time production by 20% to 120 hours per week.
Chrysler has been using that schedule at the Trenton South Engine Plant for almost a year. Workers were already unhappy about the schedule disrupting their lives and increasing child care costs but when mandatory overtime on Sundays was added last month UAW Local #372 started raising safety and health issues related to the schedule.
This labor unrest takes place when both facilities are doing very well, or perhaps precisely because they are doing well. Chrysler has recently invested money in both facilities and demand is high for their products, making overtime costs an issue. The Dundee plant, in fact, is currently hiring and Trenton soon will be hiring more workers. Trenton South produces Chrysler’s new 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 engine, already available in 10 Chrysler Group cars and trucks with more being adding next year, so demand is growing. It’s the foundation of Chrysler’s powertrain strategy. Chrysler has invested $114 million to reopen the site’s Trenton North facility for production of the Pentastar and the plant will be adding 268 jobs. At the Dundee facility, originally a joint venture with Hyundai and Mitsubishi, already produced variants of Chrysler’s “world engine“. Chrysler has invested $179 million to add production of Fiat’s 1.4-liter, 16-valve “MultiAir” FIRE (Fully Integrated Robotized Engine) motor. So far, a additional 100 people have been hired at Dundee. The currently produce about 400 engines a day that get shipped to Mexico, where Fiat 500s for the North American market are assembled. Production is being increased, and hiring for a second shift is open until early October.