United Auto Worker (UAW) union members at Magna International’s New Process Gear unit in Syracuse, New York state, are on Monday (16 March) and Tuesday voting on accepting a new contract which would eventually reduce their pay and the number of workers employed there.

A Post Standard/Herald-Journal local newspaper report said the plant must break even – or come close – in July but plans to almost have the workforce from 1,400 to 760 and, in 2011, drop wages from US$20.16 an hour to $16 an hour would remain in place.

The paper said the revised contract was little different from one union members rejected in February but, without concessions on pay and work rules, the plant can’t compete and is likely to close.

Greg Deveson, senior vice president of Magna Powertrain Driveline and Chassis Control Systems, said the proposed agreement would give the plant the operating flexibility it needs to meet production schedules and customer requirements.

”In a time when much is uncertain, this much is sure: a ‘yes’ vote will preserve operations and jobs here for longer than they would be with a ‘no’ vote, and we have a true opportunity to do that while preserving wages,” he said in a statement.

Magna had said last month it would close the plant, after union members rejected its proposals. But hard work by both sides saw a return to the bargaining table and a revised contract readied for another vote. The two sides met in the first week of this month and announced a tentative agreement on 5 March.

The union also began a new strategy to explain the agreement to its members and campaign for its approval.

If the plant reaches the break-even point, workers would keep their $20.16 per hour wage to the end of September 2011, the union and company told the local newspaper.

If the plant comes close, wages would fall to $16 per hour in August.

If New Process Gear misses the goal completely, the plant could close.