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General Motors uses salaried employees to keep Missouri plant open as assembly line workers call out sick due to coronavirus


A General Motors worker works Dec. 13, 2019 on the automaker’s plant in Wentzville, Missouri.

Photo by Melissa Vaeth for General Motors

General Motors is utilizing salaried employees to fill in for hourly union workers absent due to coronavirus to keep a Missouri truck plant working.

High charges of absenteeism on the firm’s Wentzville Assembly plant in Missouri have pressured the firm to juggle round workers during the last three weeks, in accordance to GM spokesman Jim Cain. The salaried workers, he stated, are a short-term repair till the corporate can switch workers from different vegetation and rent about 200 short-term employees to fill the positions.

“It’s been a challenge to achieve the kind of stability you’d like to see,” he stated. “To bridge us through until we can get to our long-term solution, we have asked for volunteers from the salaried team, primarily within manufacturing, to spend at least a week working the line.”

Dozens of employees have volunteered, in accordance to Cain. The employees are educated within the place as properly as security, high quality and different protocols, he stated. 

GM is making an attempt to replenish supplier inventories that had been depleted after the coronavirus pandemic led to a shutdown for about two months within the spring.

Union grievances

The use of salaried employees has drawn the ire of the native United Auto Workers chapter, which has filed grievances concerning the observe. The UAW argues the automaker is violating its contract with the union.

“We have strenuously objected to this violation of the contract,” UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg stated. “It is clearly a violation of the contract. I would hope this gets resolved soon.”

Under the UAW’s contract with the automaker, non-union salaried employees are usually not to “be permitted to perform work on any hourly-rated job except in the following types of situations: (1) in emergencies arising out of unforeseen circumstances which call for immediate action to avoid interruption of operations; (2) in the instruction or training of employees, including demonstrating the proper method to accomplish the task assigned.”

It may very well be argued the coronavirus pandemic inflicting broad absenteeism throughout the automotive trade may very well be thought of “unforeseen circumstances,” nevertheless, the union disagrees.

Kristin Dziczek, vp of trade, labor and economics on the Center for Automotive Research, stated the usage of the salaried workers on assembly strains is “highly unusual, but these are highly unusual times.”

Uncommon observe

Such a observe is rare — significantly for a unionized workforce — however not unprecedented.

Honda Motor final month confirmed to CNBC that it additionally was utilizing salaried employees to fill positions in its manufacturing operations.

“Due to strong customer demand for our products and the need to carefully manage production during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are facing some temporary staffing issues that require support from associates who do not typically work in production,” the Japanese automaker stated in an emailed assertion in late July. “We have implemented such temporary measures in the past, and are working diligently to attract and hire associates to support our production needs.”

It’s unclear whether or not Honda continues to be utilizing salaried workers on its manufacturing unit ground. A Honda spokesman didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

GM’s plant in Missouri has been extra problematic than most when it comes to absenteeism. The automaker introduced plans this summer season to minimize one among three shifts from the plant beginning final month. It later withdrew these plans by way of various staffing options, which did not pan out as initially deliberate.

GM produces common Chevrolet and GMC midsize pickups and vans on the plant in Missouri. The state has reported about 76,000 confirmed coronavirus circumstances, together with almost 1,500 deaths. St. Charles County, the place the plant is situated, is fourth within the state for the variety of confirmed circumstances, in accordance to public knowledge.

The Detroit automaker has stated it believes workers at its vegetation should not be involved about coming to work as a result of the corporate has carried out new procedures to keep everybody as secure as attainable.

GM has urged its employees to comply with the identical protocols whether or not at work or at dwelling, together with social distancing and sporting masks after they’re in teams. The Detroit automaker as properly as its crosstown rivals have carried out temperature checks and Covid-19 testing procedures, amongst different security measures.



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