There is no denying that the coronavirus pandemic has made itself felt in the automotive world. Tensions between employees and automakers began to boil over in the early stages of the pandemic, before production facilities were shuttered around the globe. However it appears that the restart hasn’t entirely relieved these employee frustrations. GM and their UAW employees are butting heads once again at the Wentzville Assembly plant in Missouri.
The Wentzville Assembly plant is where GM builds the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins, and it is also home to the Express and Savana vans. The production facility has struggled to get back up to full speed following the restarts, as the plant suffers what GM calls “high absenteeism”. Essentially this means that the automakers haven’t had enough workers coming in to fill all three shifts at the plant. As a result, they’ve turned to the plant’s white collar employees for help.
Placing salaried employees on the production line has not gone over well, however. UAW spokesperson Brian Rothenberg told the Detroit Free Press that the UAW employees in Wentzville “strenuously object” to the decision. Furthermore, the UAW believes that this is a breach of their contract with GM, going as far as to file grievances from the local office.
But if the UAW workers weren’t showing up, what did they expect GM to do?
GM’s contract with the UAW employees states that these white collar employees may not do hourly work unless one of two scenarios arises:
“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.”
Now GM might be able to argue that the coronavirus pandemic falls under that first category, but that is going to be tricky nonetheless. The company is moving to transfer UAW employees from their Spring Hill Assembly plant, where a shift was recently cut. Hopefully this can help to ease the situation, as the General likely does not want to bear another UAW strike like the one late last year.