Fort Wayne UAW contradicts earlier claims

Some ex-Lordstown workers hang in balance

WARREN — An allegation General Motors is sidestepping its collective bargaining agreement with United Auto Workers by not transferring workers, including some in Lordstown, to a plant in Indiana is contradictory to a grievance filed by the local UAW in Fort Wayne.

The national UAW claims the automaker continues to use temporary workers instead of placing about 1,000 eligible previously laid-off workers — about 700 of whom worked at Lordstown — at the plant that produces the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.

But a grievance filed by the local UAW in Fort Wayne, Indiana, argues, using another part of the contract, the temporary employees should be converted into “seniority employees” rather than offering the laid-off workers the jobs.

The issue is contained in a request that’s part of the federal lawsuit from General Motors’ attorneys wanting 45 more days to respond to the national UAW’s allegation made last month.

“The requested extension will provide the potential opportunity to reconcile these contradictory positions in consultation with the UAW and UAW-affiliated local union …,” the filing states.

Also, GM has been discontinuing the use of temporary employees and has offered jobs to various laid-off UAW members formerly at the Lordstown facility, and many of the job offers have been accepted, GM’s motion states.

“GM’s actions are consistent with what the complaint alleges to be GM’s contractual obligation, and … GM’s actions are consistent with the primary relief sought in the complaint,” the motion states.

A GM spokesman said in early January the automaker started the process to bring about 50 Lordstown employees to Fort Wayne to fill some of the positions held by temporary employees, and about 35 Lordstown UAW members would be in place by the end of January.

The extension request made Thursday was granted, giving GM’s attorneys until March 17 to answer the complaint. The extra time, according to the motion “will provide the opportunity to narrow the issues in dispute … and potentially resolve” the matters to facilitate the legal action.

The employees were laid off before GM announced in November its intention to idle in March the Lordstown plant and four others in North America, and stop production of the Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze.

The latest numbers provided by GM show 560 of 1,500 the employees from one of the affected plants who volunteered to transfer were from the Lordstown facility. About 300 have been placed, including 37 to the plant in Fort Wayne.

The last day for employees at the Lordstown plant is March 8, however, there is a local effort underway to try to convince GM to assign a new vehicle there and keep the plant open.