Editor’s Note: Updates with proposed contract details, including elimination of two-tier wage structure.
The United Auto Workers and Volvo Trucks North America reached a third tentative agreement on a new contract Thursday evening, but the strike by hourly workers will continue through ratification voting on July 9.
The fractious labor dispute has dragged on since February when negotiations began on a new agreement to replace a five-year contract that expired on March 16. The union extended a strike deadline for a month before walking out on April 17. Union leaders ordered the approximately 2,900 members of Local 2069 to go back on April 30 to work pending ratification voting.
That decision angered rank-and-file workers who did not receive details of the agreement before ending their job action. This time, they will remain on picket lines until ratification voting. That means the strike will last into at least a fifth week, depending on the outcome of the vote.
Two previous tentative agreements, including the most recent one reached May 20, were overwhelmingly rejected by local members who voted 9-to-1 against proposed work rules and salary provisions.
Pre-vote briefing on Friday
In a reversal of the earlier approach that led to local union criticism of its bargaining team, the UAW said Local 2069 members would be briefed on Friday on contract details with Region 8 International representatives and a UAW Heavy Truck Department representative participating.
“Our members stood up for more substantial gains, and those were achieved. The process of solidarity and member involvement in this contract has resulted in significant gains for all UAW members at Volvo Truck.”UAW Region 8 Director Mitchell Smith
“This contract reflects significant gains from the prior two tentative agreements,” UAW President Ray Curry said in a press release.
Curry and UAW Region 8 Director Mitchell Smith said the determination of the striking workers paid off.
“Our members stood up for more substantial gains, and those were achieved,” Smith said. “The process of solidarity and member involvement in this contract has resulted in significant gains for all UAW members at Volvo Truck.”
In a statement Friday morning, Volvo said the proposed deal would eliminate the two-tier wage system that began at the Detroit 3 automakers as a concession to preserve jobs during the Great Recession in 2008.
If ratified, the agreement would immediately take any employee currently in wage progression and hired on or before June 30, 2015 to top pay; institute a six-year progression to top pay for all employees and give credit for years of active service.
New hire starting pay would increase by more than 14%. Health insurance premiums would not rise over the life of the contract, a benefit the company said is worth more than $20,000 per year per employee.
Engine plant affected
The duration of the second walkout has impacted some shifts at the Volvo Group engine plant in Hagerstown, Maryland, where engines for Volvo and its sibling Mack Trucks are produced. The Mack plant near Allentown, Pennsylvania, is down for the first two weeks in July because of supply shortages.
The downtime was unrelated to the strike at the New River Valley plant in Dublin, Virginia, Volvo Group spokesman John Mies told FreightWaves.
Volvo and Mack make all their trucks for the North American market at the two plants. Mies would not discuss how much production has been lost. Salaried workers have kept the plant partially operational, completing some trucks held awaiting semiconductors critical to a number of functions.