American Axle, UAW Resume Talks

Thu, 03/06/2008 - 4:53am
Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Bargainers for the United Auto Workers and a key parts supplier for General Motors Corp. were to resume negotiations Thursday, the first talks since workers went on strike last week.
About 3,600 UAW workers at five American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. plants in Michigan and New York walked off their jobs Feb. 26 after contract talks broke down over wages. The resulting parts shortage has forced GM and other parts suppliers to shut down plants in the U.S. and Canada, affecting thousands of workers.
American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers said in a brief statement issued Wednesday that talks would resume at noon Thursday. She would give no further details.
UAW spokesman Roger Kerson would not say if the company or union had changed positions on the talks.
''The UAW bargaining team is going to return to the table and work as hard as we can to get a fair and equitable agreement,'' he said Wednesday.
The Detroit-based parts supplier makes axles, drive shafts and stabilizer bars for GM's flagship pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles. The strike forced the automaker to temporarily shut down five assembly plants. In addition, a plant that makes Hummers under contract to GM was closed, and GM is due to close part of its Toledo, Ohio, transmission plant March 10.
The automaker announced Wednesday that workers at its Janesville, Wisconsin, SUV assembly plant were told to expect shortened shifts next week.
The GM factory closures affect more than 17,000 hourly workers, or about 22 percent of GM's North American manufacturing work force. Some of the factory workers remain on the job doing maintenance or training, but those laid off get most of their pay under their UAW contract.
In the past week GM has idled assembly plants in Pontiac; Flint; Oshawa, Ontario; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Moraine, Ohio, all of which make pickups or SUVs.
An AM General plant in Mishawaka, Indiana, that makes the Hummer H2 also was idled, and numerous parts supplier plants have been forced to close.
GM accounts for about 80 percent of American Axle's business, with 10 percent going to Chrysler LLC and the rest to other automakers.
Chrysler says it can last another week before its Newark, Delaware, assembly plant could be temporarily closed. American Axle makes axles for Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen SUVs made in Newark, as well as two versions of the Dodge Ram pickup made in Saltillo, Mexico, spokeswoman Michele Tinson said.
GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner has said the company has enough inventory to keep vehicles in the sales pipeline despite the strike, but the full impact will depend on the duration.
''We are in great shape for 60 to 90 days easy, on our full-size pickups in terms of what we need to do, and I'm sure this thing will get itself worked out,'' Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president of sales and marketing said earlier this week.

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