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May 19, 2008

US: AAM workers vote on strike-ending deal

United Auto Workers (UAW) members who work at American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings (AAM) are this week voting whether to accept a deal that should end the almost 12-week-old strike that has affected production at a number of General Motors car and truck assembly plants.

United Auto Workers (UAW ) members who work at American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings (AAM ) are this week voting whether to accept a deal that should end the almost 12-week-old strike that has affected production at a number of General Motors car and truck assembly plants.

The Detroit Free Press (DFP) on Monday reported that many workers at the company’s Detroit forging operation had said they would vote for a deal that would close their plant.

But that “yes” vote was a reluctant one by workers who said they saw little alternative, the paper added. “The contract is terrible. But it’s the best we can get,” a 61-year-old pipefitter told the DFP.

The paper said voting started about 1pm BST (8am EST) on Monday (19 May) at UAW Local (branch) 262, which represents about 302 American Axle employees who work at the forging plant – part of American Axle’s sprawling Detroit manufacturing complex that straddles Detroit and Hamtramck – that is scheduled to close under a proposed contract that covers more than 3,600 American Axle employees in total.

If ratified, the vote would end a strike that is 12 weeks old tomorrow.

Workers at the local told the DFP the plant is expected to close on 30 November. The paper added that, if there are job openings, workers there might be able to transfer to the supplier’s other Detroit plants, which make axles and other components.

But the report noted that, with declining SUV and pickup sales, some see that as a slim possibility. Other options for these workers include taking a buyout or, if they are eligible, retiring early.

The Detroit Free Press said voting results won’t be announced until Thursday, after union members at other UAW locals covered by the agreement vote.

AAM was formed from former GM units that primarily made axles and related driveline parts and the Detroit-based automaker is its main customer. GM’s chief financial officer Fritz Henderson last week told a conference in the the city that the AAM strike and consequent assembly plant closings or shift furloughs had cost it US$800m by the end of March.

The Detroit Free Press said the new contract would cut AAM workers’ wages by up to $10 an hour in exchange for payments of up to $105,000 over three years.

It also includes buyouts and retirement incentives, while allowing American Axle to close two forging plants in Detroit and New York, the paper added.

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