German Automotive Industry Coping With Widespread Strikes
With the UAW currently coping with a high-profile corruption scandal in the United States, news of Germany’s widespread auto strikes has taken a backseat in domestic media. Last Friday, IG Metall concluded its third day of striking against Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Porsche, Audi, VW, and BMW.
However the 72-hours of downtime may only be the appetizer in the German union’s strike-buffet. While both IG Metall and the manufacturers have expressed a willingness to resume talks on Monday, the union remains on the cusp of a vote that could extend striking indefinitely. Here’s why they are so pissed:
This Union Corruption Scandal Is Getting Awfully Messy
The multimillion-dollar corruption scandal involving the United Automobile Workers and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is starting to cross the line from hubbub to full-on fiasco. Earlier this week, three FCA employees filed a federal lawsuit against the automaker and the UAW seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages over allegations that union officials colluded with company executives to influence collective bargaining.
Meanwhile, a recently released plea deal with former FCA labor relations head Alphons Iacobelli implicated former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell — the man tasked with overseeing the most recent round of contract negotiations with FCA. Iacobelli claims he and other FCA employees transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal payments to tax-exempt organizations controlled by UAW officials, including Jewell’s Making Our Children Smile Foundation.
Feds Allege FCA Executives Bribed UAW Officials to Play Nice
Former Fiat Chrysler labor relations chief Alphons Iacobelli pleaded guilty to two of seven charges relating to his role in a plan to divert more than $4.5 million in training center funds to union and company officials on Monday. As part of a plea deal with federal authorities, Iacobelli provided information regarding confidential retirement offers and a former union vice president being groomed to support company initiatives.
In an admission that he and other FCA employees paid various senior UAW officials over $1.5 million in an effort to “obtain benefits, concessions, and advantages for FCA in the negotiation, implementation, and administration,” Iacobelli is now helping map the deepening mire that is the FCA-UAW training center scandal.
UAW Choses New Leader to Oversee Troubled FCA Department
The United Auto Workers’ executive board has selected Terry Dittes, current regional director on the East Coast, to become the union’s newest vice president. Dittes is tasked with overseeing the UAW’s Fiat Chrysler department, which is currently involved in an ugly federal corruption probe involving millions of dollars from a joint training center allegedly embezzled by both union and company officials.
Replacing Norwood Jewell, whose retirement became effective upon the close of 2017, Dittes is stepping in roughy six months before his first four-year term was supposed to end. While Jewell has not been formally charged with corruption, his supervisory role during the FCA-UAW scandal likely forced the early retirement.
Union Dos and Don'ts: Volkswagen Chops Salaries and Bonuses for Works Council Amid Investigation
Volkswagen has slashed salaries and suspended the bonuses of 14 members of its works council, including council head Bernd Osterloh, as officials investigate alleged overpayments. In May, it was made public that German prosecutors were looking into current and former executives at VW under suspicions that they paid the labor chief an “excessive” salary.
This was followed by a November raid, after which the council claimed the probe didn’t “target Osterloh.” Members specified that all payments were in line with Germany’s legal guidelines. The offices of VW’s chief financial officer, Frank Witter, and personnel director Karlheinz Blessing were also searched.
UAW Prez Gets It All Off His Chest, Slams Ford Motor Company
United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams, due to retire in June, isn’t letting Ford Motor Company off the hook for its recent decision to send production of a key product south of the border. Actually, as union heads are wont to do, he’s not letting his government off the hook, either.
The question Williams would like Ford CEO Jim Hackett to answer is: what Mexicans are going to buy an electric Ford?
Hyundai's Labor Issues Return as Kona Production Stops Prior to U.S. Launch
Hyundai Motor Company has, once again, found itself at the mercy of an unhappy workforce. No stranger to labor disputes, the company hinted that it might scale back its at-home labor in South Korea — presumably aware that the possible response would be negative, which it was. But the timing couldn’t be worse.
The Kona crossover is believed to be the model that will turn things around for Hyundai in the United States, but a new labor strike has put the export vehicle’s production on hold only a week after it started.
Germany Loves a Good Probe: VW Raided by Prosecutors Over Labor Chief's Salary
Curious as to whether Volkswagen’s management agreed to “excessive” payments of its chief labor representative, German prosecutors raided the carmaker’s headquarters. While a raid certainly sounds bad, it seems like the only way the country’s government bothers to acquire information from automotive manufacturers anymore.
This year alone, VW has been subjected to numerous raids relating to its diesel emission scandal and possible pricing collusion between BMW and Daimler. While one imagines a swarm of suits, backed by uniformed officers, as employees frantically shred documents, the frequency of such impromptu investigations probably just leaves staffers annoyed. I’m starting to think the German government likes showing up unannounced more than the country’s car builders enjoy illicit activities.
GM, Ford Cooperating As Federal Investigators Look Into Possible UAW Corruption
A federal investigation that started with corruption charges against a former Fiat Chrysler labor executive and the wife of a deceased United Auto Workers vice president has expanded to include training centers created by both General Motors and Ford. Investigators issued subpoenas in recent weeks to amass information on the centers, which are jointly operated between the automakers and the UAW.
In the FCA case, company and union officials are alleged to have misappropriated an estimated $4.5 million earmarked for employee training. That money is believed to have gone into personal accounts and used to buy suspiciously extravagant items. The FBI appears to be concerned that similar activities could be happening at Ford and GM-backed training sites.
Unifor Approves Contract at GM's Canadian Equinox Factory, Strike Ends Tonight
General Motors and Unifor representation at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, announced a tentative agreement on Friday. Today, that deal proved amicable to both parties, as union employees voted to approve a new four-year contract with the automaker — ending a month-long strike at a factory producing the incredibly popular Chevrolet Equinox crossover.
While the deal includes a salary increase of four percent over four years and $8,000 in lump sum payments over the lifespan of the proposal, it lacks Unifor’s primary demand of a written assurance that CAMI will remain the lead producer of the Equinox. GM proved unwilling to give way on that issue, which is likely due to the ongoing and uncertain nature of NAFTA renegotiations.
“Despite our every effort, General Motors steadfastly refused to accept our members’ reasonable demand to designate the CAMI plant as General Motors lead producer for the Chevy Equinox,” Unifor president Jerry Dias wrote to local union members prior to the factory vote.
General Motors, Union Strike Tentative Deal at Striking Equinox Plant
After a month-long strike and a war of words that erupted earlier this week, General Motors and the union representing workers at its CAMI assembly plant have struck a tentative deal.
Late Friday, Unifor Local 88 posted a statement claiming a breakthrough in bargaining talks that reached an impasse on September 17th. That means Chevrolet Equinox crossovers could restart production at the Ingersoll, Ontario facility on Monday — easing dealer fears over a shortage of the hot-selling vehicle.
GM to Union: End Strike or Automaker Will 'Wind Down' Equinox Production
Talks between General Motors and Canadian union Unifor seem to have broken down after the automaker mentioned it might wind down production of the Chevrolet Equinox at the striking CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario. Negotiators explained to the union that the cost of continuing the month-long strike would mean losing more business to Mexico, which has already been filling Canadian production gaps since before the strike began.
GM currently builds the popular Equinox at three North American facilities: the CAMI plant, and two Mexican plants. With a shrinking 41-day supply of rolling stock at the end of last month, the facilities located south of the border can’t produce an equivalent volume to the Canadian worksite. However, GM suggests that could change if Unifor doesn’t throw in the towel soon.
Chevrolet Equinox Inventories Dwindling, But No One's Panicking Just Yet
It was another hot month for the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox in September, especially when contrasted with last year’s sales. U.S. sales last month amounted to an 80-percent year-over-year increase, with 27,512 vehicles sold, while Canada’s 2,079 vehicles sales represented a 27-percent increase, year-over-year.
Both countries’ year-to-date tallies are on the upswing, outranking last year’s total by 22 percent in the U.S. and 27 percent north of the border. Good news for General Motors, but worrisome when you consider the main Equinox production line shut down over two weeks ago. Workers at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, are still on strike. Meanwhile, the amount of Equinoxes in GM’s inventory is dropping steadily.
It’s not a crisis yet, but if GM and its unionized plant workers don’t reach an agreement soon, it could turn into one.
How Will the UAW's War With Nissan End?
The South has been a longstanding hurdle for the United Auto Workers. Having been unsuccessful in its efforts to organize foreign-owned automakers outside its Midwestern stronghold for years, the UAW is running out of options. Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and Tesla have all managed to stave off unionization and many wondered what the UAW would do after its most recent loss at a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi.
It decided to double down.
Despite losing the vote by a fairly crushing margin, the UAW has sought intervention through the National Labor Relations Board by formally accusing Nissan of playing dirty. But how the legal proceedings will play out is a matter of some controversy, and the group’s strategy is somewhat muddled.
No Breakthrough in Labor Talks as Chevrolet Equinox Plant Remains Shuttered
The sound of workers slapping together 2018 Chevrolet Equinox crossovers is not ringing through the streets of Ingersoll, Ontario, this morning.
A strike that began late on September 17th continues today after a weekend labor update that might have heralded good news turned into just another day on the picket line. The workforce at General Motors’ CAMI assembly plant, represented by Unifor Local 88, continue advocating for a new collective agreement that cements the plant’s future in GM’s production roster.
Meanwhile, inventories of the hot-selling crossover are dwindling.