CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — United Auto Workers members at Mitsubishi Motors North America's plant in Normal ratified a new contract Thursday that includes wage cuts the union has said could determine the fate of the facility and its 1,300 jobs.
Seventy-seven percent of the union workers who voted on the deal approved it, UAW local President Ralph Timan said. He declined further comment, including providing any details about the new deal.
Mitsubishi spokesman Dan Irvin similarly declined to talk about the contract's details.
The union and company said in a joint statement that the new deal "will provide job security for UAW members" and "continues the long-standing partnership between MMNA and the UAW into the future."
"MMNA and the UAW regard this as an important step for the future of the plant and take this result positively," the statement read. "MMNA appreciates the sacrifices UAW members have made for the long term viability of the plant and we look forward to an exciting future."
A document obtained by The (Bloomington) Pantagraph newspaper indicated the union warned ahead of this week's vote that without wage cuts Mitsubishi wouldn't add a new car model at the plant and could eventually close the facility. Those cuts would give back a $1.67 an hour raise given union members in September.
Both Timan and Irvin have declined to comment on that report.
State economic development officials say they'll do whatever they can to keep Mitsubishi in Normal and are talking to the company, but won't say whether a package of incentives such as tax breaks is in the works.
"I can't talk about any type of specific negotiations," said Marcelyn Love, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. "But I can say we're in constant communication with them to keep the company and those jobs here in Illinois."
Mitsubishi makes three models of car at the plant — Galants, Eclipses and Spyders — as well as the Endeavor SUV.
Osamu Masuko, who is president of Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Motors Corp., said in September that changes would have to be made at the plant as the company tries to improve its sluggish North American sales.
"From what we know at the moment, it is not possible to continue with the models that we have had," he told Automotive News.
Local employees have been waiting for Mitsubishi to detail its plans for the plant, part of a new management plan for the entire company originally due in November. Irvin would not say Thursday when that plan could be released.
Mitsubishi North America, like the auto industry in general, has struggled with slow sales. The company's U.S. market share for 2009 was just over one half of one percent, its lowest level since 1985, according to WardsAuto.com, which tracks auto industry data.
The Normal Mitsubishi plant is one of the largest private employers in McLean County.