Boosting GM output delayed

August 11, 1994|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Sun Staff Writer

General Motors Corp.'s consideration of a plan to boost production at its Southeast Baltimore plant has been sidetracked by a dispute over the use of temporary workers, according to the head of the local union.

"We don't want to use temporary workers to increase production," Rodney A. Trump, president of United Auto Workers Local 239, which represents the 3,200 hourly production workers at the Broening highway plant, said yesterday.

GM has not indicated that it would hire temporary workers to increase its output of Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari vans made here, Mr. Trump said. But he said the international union must reach an agreement with the company over the use of temporary workers before talks on boosting production at the local plant move forward.

"We are sitting here and waiting to see what the [UAW international] decides," said Mr. Trump.

James Crellin, a GM spokesman in Detroit, would say only that "the union has expressed concern over the hiring of temporary workers beyond those used as summer replacements, and the company continues to hold discussions with the union on this topic."

Mr. Trump said the union has been concerned about GM's increased use of temporary workers in recent years, including the approximately 200 at the Baltimore plant. Some of those workers have been employed at the plant for more than one year.

"There are only two ways to use temporary workers," Mr. Trump said. "As summer replacements [to fill in for regular workers on vacation] and to keep jobs open for other GM workers that have been laid off at other plants."

If there are jobs opening at the plant, Mr. Trump said, workers that have been laid off from other GM plants should fill them.

"The next move would be to hire people off the streets of Baltimore as permanent employees," Mr. Trump said.

He added that he did not think it was fair to hire temporaries and keep them on the job for years while paying them less than permanent workers and providing no vacations or benefits.

Since late last year, GM has been considering ways to increase )) the number of vans assembled at the Baltimore plant to meet consumer demand.

Mr. Trump said that the addition of a third shift -- which could add up to 1,300 new jobs at the Baltimore plant -- is an option still being considered, but he said it seems unlikely.

"I'm not sure that the sales forecasts [for the Safari and Astro vans] warrant a third shift," he said. "I'm not sure that they will increase production here at all."

Another option being considered, he said, is what the company calls a "third crew arrangement," which would bring in additional workers without adding a third shift.

Mr. Trump said the company has proposed more than two dozen plans to increase production that would need the union's approval before going into effect.

Jeffrey S. Kuhlman, a spokesman for GM's North American Truck Platforms in Pontiac, Mich., which oversees the operation of the Baltimore plant, said the company is still evaluating the demands for the vans made here and alternative production plans, but stressed that no decision has been made.

He also acknowledged that GM may decide against boosting output at its van plant here.

Employees at the Baltimore plant have been working two hours of overtime on each of the daily shifts for more than a year to meet customer demand for the vans, Mr. Trump said. They also have worked some Saturdays to boost output.

If there is an increase in production, the financial impact would be felt throughout the metropolitan area. The Baltimore GM assembly plant is supplied with parts by more than a half-dozen local companies on a just-in-time inventory system.

Reg McGhee, a spokesman for the UAW International in Detroit, said it may be a few more weeks before the union addresses the question of the company's use of temporary employees.

Mr. McGhee said that the union will have to wait until the summer replacements leave at the beginning of September before it can meet with the company to address staffing needs.

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