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Tentative agreement gives Mitsubishi workers security
[September 30, 2008]

Tentative agreement gives Mitsubishi workers security

(The Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sep. 30--NORMAL -- Union workers at Mitsubishi's Normal manufacturing plant will take pay cuts but gain job security through 2012 if United Auto Workers members approve a tentative contract agreement.

Key provisions in the deal reached last week between Mitsubishi Motors North America and UAW Local 2488 also provide for the creation of a two-tiered wage system, retirement offers and changes in medical benefits.

In return, the company will agree to no involuntary layoffs and guarantee the plant will remain open for the duration of the contract, according to a eight-page summary of the agreement obtained by The Pantagraph on Monday.


"The national economy has driven plant idlings and closings as well as having created an environment that has dried up credit for customers, both individual and fleet accounts, to purchase Mitsubishi products," said the summary's introduction. "In spite of these and other obstacles, the bargaining committee remained focused on protecting job security in Illinois and keeping this operation viable.

"Many difficult decisions had to be made to achieve this objective."

Union employees have been working without a contract since its bargaining committee unanimously rejected an offer Sept. 6.

The proposal concluded about 2 1/2 months of negotiations that occurred in the midst of turmoil throughout the automotive industry and several years of recent struggles at Mitsubishi's only North American manufacturing facility.

MMNA spokesman Dan Irvin declined comment Monday. An attempt to reach a UAW spokesman in Detroit was unsuccessful.

The UAW has not publicly announced when its 1,264 members will vote, but the proposed contract, if ratified, is scheduled to take effect Monday and run through Aug. 30, 2012.

Key provisions of the contract include:

w Pay cuts of more than $4 per hour for production workers, who assemble the cars, and maintenance workers, who take care of the factory equipment. The goal of the wage concessions is to make the plant more competitive for producing new models.

The new contract calls for a base wage of $24 per hour for production workers and $28.50 per hour for maintenance workers. The agreement provides for rate increases if the plant does not have new vehicles to assemble.

w Creation of a two-tiered wage system that provides lower rates of pay to laid-off workers who might be recalled and to any subsequent new hires.

Laid-off production workers could be recalled at $16.80 per hour, 70 percent of the new base pay. They would receive periodic raises until they reached the maximum rate of $24 per hour.

Any new hires would receive $14 per hour and periodic raises until they reached a maximum salary of $20 per hour in six years.

New maintenance workers would receive a base rate of $22 per hour, and periodic wage increases until they reached a maximum salary of $25 per hour in three years.

w An opportunity for up to 200 production workers and 30 maintenance workers to participate in a voluntary separation program or take early retirement.

The VSP program would offer workers an $85,000 payment and three months of medical benefits in exchange for leaving.

It's similar to a program the company offered earlier this year that more than 100 workers accepted.

The early retirement program would offer departing employees who are 55 years old with at least 10 years' experience a $40,000 lump sum payment and a guarantee of no cuts in pension benefits.

w Changes the company's medical provider to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois and provides each eligible worker a lump sum $1,000 payment "to ease the transition." The company's HMO plan will be eliminated Jan. 1.

The company also has committed "to the equivalent of sacrifice principle for salaried and management employees," according to the summary.

The goal of the contract is to ensure the viability of the plant, McLean County's fifth-largest employer.

The Normal plant is scheduled to build only 56,000 vehicles this year, according to information previously posted on the union's Web site.

To see more of The Pantagraph, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.pantagraph.com.
Copyright (c) 2008, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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